For decades, health experts have warned about the dangers of being overweight, pointing to an increased risk of many conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers. But several recent studies have found that sometimes being overweight — even obese — can actually be helpful, especially in seniors. The phenomenon is referred to as the “obesity paradox.”
“Society has often led to people being fixated with extreme thinness, particularly for appearance,” says Dr. Carl J. Lavie, a cardiologist at New Orleans’ Oschner Heart and Vascular Institute.
“However, almost every study shows that the underweight and the low end of ‘normal’ weight almost always have the highest mortality rates,” he tells Newsmax Health.
“The obesity paradox is even more noted in older folks than in the young,” says Dr. Lavie. “Older people can be very healthy with weights typically considered in the ‘overweight’ and ‘mildly obese’ ranges, especially if they are fit.”
Check out the following situations and conditions where a few extra pounds can not only be helpful, but could possibly save your life:
Heart attack. Cardiologists from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center studied patients who had suffered a major heart attack. They found that those who were mildly obese were 30 percent more likely to survive and spend fewer days in the hospital than those of normal weight. Researchers defined “mildly obese” as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 to 34.9 compared to a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9, which is considered normal weight.
In an earlier study published in the European Heart Journal: Quality of Care and Clinical Outcomes, UT Southwestern researchers examined records from Medicare patients discharged after a heart attack involving total artery blockage. They then compared them with later treatment records to determine how the patients fared over the next three years. The mildly obese patients did better than all other groups, while those who were of normal weight or extremely obese fared the worst.
Stroke. Even though obesity increases the risk for stroke, a study from Boston University Medical Center found that people who are overweight or even mildly obese are more likely to survive strokes over the following 10-year period than those of normal body weight. The benefit was strongest in males and in those under than the age of 70.
Angioplasty. Dr. Luis Gruberg at the Cardiovascular Research Institute in Washington found that overweight and obese patients died at half the rate of normal-weight people following angioplasty, a procedure that unblocks arteries in the heart. He nicknamed the phenomenon the “obesity paradox.”
Longevity. An analysis of 97 studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that although obesity raised the risk of death, people who were mildly obese (a BMI of 30 to 34.9) had a 5 percent less chance of dying than those with normal BMIs. Those who were considered overweight with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 had a mortality rate that was 6 percent lower than those with normal BMIs. In addition, a British study found that people with Type 2 diabetes who were overweight, but not obese, had a lower risk of dying over a decade than their counterparts who were normal weight or underweight.
Sexual stamina. Sex with a person with a higher BMI lasts an average of 7.3 minutes longer when compared to underweight men or those of average weight. The answer appears to be the hormone estradiol, a form of the female hormone estrogen. It is found in excess abdominal fat and is known to slow male orgasm.
Heart failure. In studying his patients who were recovering from heart failure, Dr. Levie found that for every 1 percent increase in body fat, overall survival increased 13 percent.
Dementia. Those extra pounds may help protect you from dementia, found a study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. Researchers found that those who were classified as overweight with a BMI of 24 to 29 had an 18 percent lower risk of developing dementia. The risk was even lower for those whose BMI was 30 or above. But people who were underweight increased their risk by 29 percent.
Arthritis. A Swiss study published in the journal Rheumatology found that the higher a man’s body mass index (BMI), the lower his chance of developing chronic arthritis. Overweight and obese men were found to have a decreased risk of up to 63 percent when compared to men of normal weight.