Almost 15 years ago, some research experts have reported a counterintuitive finding that there is an “obesity paradox,” the idea that obese people live longer than those of normal weight. In other words, they demonstrated that people who have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease live longer if they are overweight or obese compared with people who are normal weight at the time of diagnosis.1
Even though this idea was eagerly embraced by an overweight population, that just like all other individuals tend to believe comforting news about their challenging present state, it was widely questioned within the scientific community.
And now, hard truths are to be told.
The recent study conducted in almost 200 000 people, followed for more than half a century, reported that obesity was associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and a two- to three-year shorter life span. More specifically, overweight men with BMI of 25 to 29.9 had a 21% higher lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease, whereas, in women, this risk was 32% higher compared with those of normal weight. Higher the BMI, greater the risk and among the obese with BMI of 30 to 39.9, the risk was 67% higher for men and 85% higher for women.2
Moreover, another group of researchers also demystified the obesity paradox in patients with stroke. They reported that stroke occurred at a significantly younger age in patients with higher BMI.3
So, how come the experts were so terribly wrong only 15 years ago? The answer, as always, lays in perspective. Taking a life course perspective, obesity paradox appeared to be largely caused by an earlier diagnosis of cardiovascular disease in obese patients who so may appear to live with heart disease for a longer time. Simply correcting this point of view, and following people before the onset of cardiovascular disease, the hard truth was revealed.
Therefore, the ‘’gut feeling’’ of the most was proven to be again true – obese people should continue to aim for normal weight and hence decrease their risks for cardiovascular diseases and increase the likelihood of longer life.