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.
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.
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.
The analysis found that people with a maximum BMI in the overweight or obese categories were at elevated risk for all-cause death, as well as death from cardiovascular disease, cancer and respiratory disease.
The highest risk for death occurred among participants who had significant drops in weight, which the authors said most likely reflected unintentional weight loss caused by illness.
Several prior studies have indicated that people who are overweight have a lower risk for death than those of normal weight.
Those studies usually measured BMI at one point in time and then collected information on whether participants were alive several years later.
Senior study author Andrew Stokes 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.
The study’s first author, Edward Yu, 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 U.S. 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.