New research says that people who are clinically underweight face an even higher risk for dying than those who are obese.
“Compared to normal-weight folks, the excessively thin have nearly twice the risk of death,” researchers concluded after reviewing more than 50 prior studies. While obesity has been the main focus in our country in terms of beig healthy, “we have [an] obligation to ensure that we avoid creating an epidemic of underweight adults and fetuses who are otherwise at the correct weight,” said study leader Dr. Joel Ray, a physician-researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. His findings appear in the March 28 issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Public Health.
According to WebMD, studies included in the analysis followed people for five years or more and focused on associations between BMI (body-mass index, a key indicator of healthy weight) and fatalities related to any cause. Ray’s team also looked at how death rates related to weight patterns among newborns and stillborns.
Some of their findings? Underweight patients of all ages (which they determined are those with a BMI of 18.5 or under) were found to face a 1.8 times greater risk for dying than patients with a normal BMI (between 18.5 and 25.9). By contrast, obese patients (those with a BMI between 30 and 34.9) face a 1.2 greater risk for dying than normal-size patients. Severely obese patients with a BMI of 35 or more, faced a 1.3 times greater risk.
So where do we go from here? Ray suggests that it’s important to keep your goal at a healthy weight when looking at the obesity epidemic, and never to go overboard. “BMI reflects not only body fat, but also muscle mass. If we want to continue to use BMI in health care and public health initiatives, we must realize that a robust and healthy individual is someone who has a reasonable amount of body fat and also sufficient bone and muscle,” Ray said in a hospital news release. “If our focus is more on the ills of excess body fat, then we need to replace BMI with a proper measure, like waist circumference.”
When looking at causes for being clinically underweight, they were able to link them to typical factors including malnourishment, drug or alcohol use, smoking, poverty and mental health issues.
What do you think about these new studies? Should we be coming at the obesity epidemic from another angle? Give us your thoughts in the comments!