Being underweight or severely obese did cut life expectancy.
The researchers at the US National Centre for Health Statistics looked at 97 studies involving nearly 2.9 million people to compare death rates with Body Mass Index (BMI) – a way of measuring obesity using a person’s weight and height.
A healthy BMI is considered to be above 18.5 and below 25. However, overweight people (with a BMI between 25 and 30) were 6% less likely to die early than those considered to have a healthy weight, the study reports.
Mildly obese people (BMI between 30 and 35) were no more likely to die prematurely than people with a healthy BMI.
A new study suggesting being overweight can lead to a longer life has caused controversy among obesity experts
The study said being “overweight was associated with significantly lower all-cause mortality”.
Possible explanations included overweight people getting medical treatment, such as to control blood pressure, more quickly or the extra weight helping people survive being severely ill in hospital.
However, the researchers point out they looked only at deaths and not years spent free of ill-health.
On Tuesday, the Royal College of Physicians called for the UK to rethink the way it tackles obesity.
Prof. John Wass, vice-president of the college, said: “Have you ever seen a 100-year-old human being who is overweight? The answer is you probably haven’t.”
He said the largest people will have died years before and pointed to health problems and higher levels of Type 2 diabetes.
“Huge pieces of evidence go against this, countless other studies point in the other direction.”
Other experts criticized the research methods.
“Some portion of those thin people are actually sick, and sick people tend to die sooner,” according to Donald Berry, from the University of Texas.
Dr. Walter Willett, from the Harvard School of Public Health said: “This is an even greater pile of rubbish than a study conducted by the same group in 2005.”
Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum in the UK, said: “It’s a horrific message to put out at this particular time.
“We shouldn’t take it for granted that we can cancel the gym, that we can eat ourselves to death with black forest gateaux.”
Post-menopausal women who have Type 2 diabetes appear to have a 27% greater risk of developing breast cancer, experts say.
An international team, writing in the British Journal of Cancer, examined 40 separate studies looking at the potential link between breast cancer and diabetes.
Being obese or overweight is linked to both conditions.
But cancer experts say there may be a direct connection between the two.
These studies involved more than 56,000 women with breast cancer.
Post-menopausal women with Type 2 diabetes had a 27% increased risk of breast cancer.
But there was no link for pre-menopausal women or those with Type 1 diabetes.
The authors have also suggested that a high body mass index (BMI), which is often associated with diabetes, may be an underlying contributing factor.
Prof. Peter Boyle, president of the International Prevention Research Institute, who led the study, said: “We don’t yet know the mechanisms behind why Type 2 diabetes might increase the risk of breast cancer.
“On the one hand, it’s thought that being overweight, often associated with Type 2 diabetes, and the effect this has on hormone activity may be partly responsible for the processes that lead to cancer growth.
“But it’s also impossible to rule out that some factors related to diabetes may be involved in the process.”
US health regulators have approved weight-loss pill Belviq, marking the first new drug treatment in 13 years.
Belviq (lorcaserin hydrochloride), made by Arena Pharmaceutical, can be used by obese or overweight adults with at least one condition.
The drug achieved only modest results in clinical studies, helping people lose on average about 5% of their body weight.
Belviq was rejected in 2010 because of concerns over tumors that developed in animals tested with the drug.
After San Diego-based Arena resubmitted its application with more data, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found little risk of tumors in humans using the drug.
FDA approved weight-loss pill Belviq, marking the first new drug treatment in 13 years
The medication is expected to launch in 2013.
Belviq is designed to block appetite signals in the brain, making patients feel fuller with smaller amounts of food.
Belviq is a serotonin 2C receptor agonist indicated as an adjunct to a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity for chronic weight management in adults with an initial body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or greater (obese) or 27 kg/m2 or greater (overweight) in the presence of at least one weight-related comorbid condition, (e.g., hypertension, dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes).
The FDA warned that Belviq is not for women who are pregnant or nursing.
With US obesity rates approaching 35% in adults and associated healthcare costs on the rise, many doctors have urged health regulators to give the green light to new weight-loss treatments.
But the agency has set high standards for such medication after safety problems with previously popular weight-loss drugs.
The so-called fen-phen combination had to be pulled from the market in 1997 after being linked to heart valve damage.
In a statement, the FDA said Belviq did not appear to carry the same risks.
However, known side effects of Belviq do include depression, migraine and memory lapses.
The FDA-approved label says the drug should not be used for more than 12 weeks if a 5% weight loss does not occur.
Arena will be required to conduct six studies after marketing the drug, including a study on the drug’s effect on long-term heart health.
A new US research found that people who eat chocolate regularly tend to be thinner.
The findings come from a study of nearly 1,000 US people that looked at diet, calorie intake and body mass index (BMI) – a measure of obesity.
The study found those who ate chocolate a few times a week were, on average, slimmer than those who ate it occasionally.
Even though chocolate is loaded with calories, it contains ingredients that may favor weight loss rather than fat synthesis, scientists believe.
Despite boosting calorie intake, regular chocolate consumption was related to lower BMI in the study, which is published in Archives of Internal Medicine.
The link remained even when other factors, like how much exercise individuals did, were taken into account.
And it appears it is how often you eat chocolate that is important, rather than how much of it you eat. The study found no link with quantity consumed.
According to the researchers, there is only one chance in a hundred that their findings could be explained by chance alone.
Lead author Dr. Beatrice Golomb, from the University of California at San Diego, said: “Our findings appear to add to a body of information suggesting that the composition of calories, not just the number of them, matters for determining their ultimate impact on weight.”
This is not the first time scientists have suggested that chocolate may be healthy for us.
Other studies have claimed chocolate may be good for the heart.
A new US research found that people who eat chocolate regularly tend to be thinner
Consumption of certain types of chocolate has been linked to some favorable changes in blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and cholesterol level.
And chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, does contain antioxidants which can help to mop up harmful free radicals – unstable chemicals that can damage our cells.
Dr. Beatrice Golomb and her team believe that antioxidant compounds, called catechins, can improve lean muscle mass and reduce weight – at least studies in rodents would suggest this might be so.
Mice fed for 15 days with epicatechin (present in dark chocolate) had improved exercise performance and observable changes to their muscle composition.
They say clinical trials are now needed in humans to see if this is the case.
But before you reach for a chocolate bar, there are still lots of unanswered questions. And in the absence of conclusive evidence, experts advise caution.
While there’s no harm in allowing yourself a treat like chocolate now and again, eating too much might be harmful because it often contains a lot of sugar and fat too.
And if you are looking to change your diet, you are likely to benefit most from eating more fresh fruits and vegetables.