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Ideal Body Mass Index Lowers Chances of Dying in all Age Groups

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Researchers have pinpointed the odds of dying related to maintaining higher than ideal body mass index (BMI), across all age groups and from any cause. According to the findings, published by the NIH’s National Cancer Institute (NCI), higher body mass index proportionately increases the chances of dying - up to 250 percent for the most severely obese individuals.

The prevalence of obesity that affects two-thirds of US adults highlights the importance of the study. The risk of dying from higher body mass index, including just being overweight, was seen in all age groups, but was more pronounced from being overweight or obese before age 50.

Studies Show Every 5 Units added to BMI ups Chances of Death 31 Percent

In nineteen long-term studies, ranging from 5 to 25 years that included almost 1.5 million subjects, the researchers found a 31 percent increase in risk of death for each increase of 5 units of body mass index among both men and women.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization define a normal BMI range as 18.5 to 24.9 - 25.0 to 29.9 is overweight, and obese is over 30.0. When body mass index reaches 35 or higher an individual is considered severely obese.

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Compared to women in the study with BMI between 22.5 and 24.9, overweight women who never smoked had a 13 percent increased chance of dying. NCI's

Amy Berrington de Gonzalez, D.Phil., lead author of the study, pubished in the New England Journal of Medicine, says, "Smoking and pre-existing illness or disease are strongly associated with the risk of death and with obesity. A paramount aspect of the study was our ability to minimize the impact of these factors by excluding those participants from the analysis."

The relationship between higher body mass from being overweight, obese and severely obese and risk of dying also held true even when taking into account alcohol consumption and physical activity levels.

Causes of death linked too much body fat were obtained from death certificates and medical records. Participants answered questions via surveys at the start of each of the nineteen studies.

Other findings included, BMI 30.0 to 34.9 increased chances of death 44 percent, 35.0 to 39.9 ups the chances of dying 88 percent, and severe weight mass - 40.0 to 49.9 percent, fat to lean muscle ratio - boosts mortality to 250 percent – all of which were compared to maintaining a healthy weight. You can check your own BMI at http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/bmicalc.htm. The study concluded, ideal body mass index is 20.0 to 24.9. Being underweight could "possibly" carry the same risks as being oveweight, write the authors.

N Engl J Med 2010; 363:2211-2219