Adults are at increased risk of premature death from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other conditions if they are overweight or obese at some point in their adult life, according to a study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Boston University School of Public Health.
The study was published April 4, 2017 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The study, led by Edward Yu, a graduate student at Harvard Chan School, appears to counter what’s called the “obesity paradox” — the idea that being overweight, but not obese, can extend your lifespan more than being slim.
People who are obese or overweight at some point in their adult lives have an elevated risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other causes, according to a new study by researchers from the School of Public Health and the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health.
The study, in the Annals of Internal Medicine, further undercuts the so-called “obesity paradox” raised by prior studies, which posits that being overweight is protective against mortality from heart and other diseases.
Senior study author Andrew Stokes, assistant professor of global health, said that looking at weight history over a longer time shows a different association with risk for death than if using a single weight measurement at one point in time.
“Having a history of being overweight or obese is linked to an increased risk for death from any cause,” he said.
He said that looking at weight across time reverses the “paradoxical association” between excess weight and mortality—from one that might appear protective, to one that is harmful.
The study’s first author, Edward Yu, a graduate student at Harvard T.H. Chan, said the increased risk of death for overweight and obese people is “important from a public health perspective, given that about one-third of adults in the US and more than a quarter of the world’s population is overweight.
“This is more reason why people should follow a healthy lifestyle and try to keep a normal weight,” Yu said.
The new study examined risks for all-cause and cause-specific death associated with being overweight or obese among more than 225,000 participants in three large prospective studies. It gauged the maximum BMI (body mass index) of participants across 16 years of weight history, and examined deaths that occurred within an average of 12 years of follow-up.