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Being Overweight can be Healthy for Seniors

Update Date: Mar 25, 2014 01:41 PM EDT
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Due to the obesity epidemic, programs have stressed the importance of maintaining a healthy weight and diet. Obesity, which is now considered a disease, is a risk factor for many other health complications, which can reduce one's lifespan. In a new study, however, researchers examined the effects of being overweight for older people. They concluded that seniors who have a body mass index (BMI) in the overweight range tend to live longer than people who have BMI measurements in the normal and healthy range.

For this study headed by Caryl Nowson, a professor of nutrition and aging at Deakin University, the team examined the role of BMI in relation to the risk of death in seniors aged 65 and above. BMI calculates weight in relation to height and is commonly used as a measurement of obesity.

"It is time to reassess the healthy weight guidelines for older people," Nowson said reported by Medical Xpress.

The researchers analyzed previously published studies that were conducted from 1990 to 2013. These studies included around 200,000 seniors who were monitored for an average of 12 years. The team discovered that seniors who had a BMI reading of 27.5, which categorizes them as overweight, had the lowest risk of death. Seniors who had BMI readings between 22 and 23 had a higher death risk even though their BMIs are considered to be normal and healthy by the World Health Organization (WHO).

"Our results showed that those over the age of 65 with a BMI of between 23 and 33 lived longer, indicating that the ideal body weight for older people is significantly higher than the recommended 18.5-25 'normal' healthy weight range," Nowson said.

The researchers categorized BMI into three groups, which were a BMI of 21-22, 20-20.9 and 33-33.9. They found that seniors who had a healthy BMI of 20-20.9 had a 19 percent increased risk of death. The risk of death fell to 12 percent for seniors with a BMI of 21-22. The death risk continued to fall to eight percent for overweight seniors with a BMI of 33-33.9.

"These findings indicate that, by current standards, being overweight is not associated with an increased risk of dying," Nowson concluded. "Rather it is those sitting at the lower end of the normal range that need to be monitored, as older people with BMIs less than 23 are at increased risk of dying."

The study was published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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