A few extra pounds may be good for you

A recent report could put those New Year's resolutions on hold -- and hurt the $61 billion weight-loss industry.

By Aimee Picchi Jan 2, 2013 2:59PM

Image: Person on scale (Purestock/SuperStock)Just when a majority of Americans are gearing up to make good on their New Year's resolutions, a new report suggests that fears about extra weight might be overblown. 


The U.S. government report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that people with extra padding may actually have a lower risk of dying than those at an ideal weight, according to Bloomberg


That could pose a setback for the $61 billion weight-loss industry, which typically sees its strongest demand in the first few months of the new year, and includes companies such as Weight Watchers and Herbalife (HLF). In a Nutrisystem (NTRI) online survey conducted before the U.S. government findings were released, more than half of Americans said they planned to make resolutions to lose weight. 


The report, from scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, considered 97 studies that involved 2.88 million people across the globe, and divided participants into categories based on body mass index. The lowest risk was among those who are overweight yet not obese, while people just over the threshold of obesity had the next lowest risk. 


One expert in the weight-loss industry cautioned against reading too much into the report. 


"People will find excuses to put off making good decisions," says Bruce Daggy, chief science officer of Nutrisystem, in an interview. "Nobody should look at this report and say, 'I can eat another jelly donut.'"


Daggy calls the report "a bit of a paradox," since higher body weight is tied to a raft of health issues, ranging from diabetes to sleep apnea, and adds that BMI is an imperfect tool.


"You can have a high BMI, but you could be a football linebacker and have not a speck of fat," he notes. 


Overweight people with normal indicators -- such as cholesterol -- might not need to "go on a crash diet," Dr. Steven Heymsfield, executive director of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, told the New York Times. Heymsfield also wrote an editorial accompanying the study.


Daggy's recommendation might not be sweet to some ears. "When people are standing on the scale or looking in the mirror or using a tape measure, you know if you have body fat to lose," he says. "This study shouldn't cause people to become complacent."


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7Comments
Jan 2, 2013 3:20PM
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I am over weight but my cholesterol (both good and bad types), triglycerides, blood pressure, heart health, etc. have excellent readings....much better than my skinny friend's readings.  Would I like to be thinner?  Yes.  However, there is so much more to health than the way someone looks.  My doctor finds it a mystery that my lab readings are so good and my BMI is so high. 
Jan 2, 2013 3:56PM
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After Christmas dinner, I have more than a few extra pounds. IF more is a good thing, I am in great shape. (Round IS a shape)
Jan 2, 2013 4:12PM
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This study shows how bad BMI is as a measure for health. The reason is many athletes are in the overweight (BMI 25 – 29) category due to muscle mass.

 

A better measure would be percentage of body fat. The trouble is that body fat is difficult and/or expensive to measure accurately. So the medical establishment and the government have taken the easy way out and when the research show their error the panic and try to explain it away

 

Jan 2, 2013 5:25PM
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Like SW2 I am also overweight, 60 years old, but blood pressure, blood sugar, stress echo cardio gram and cholesterol are good.  Go figure.  I would like more fitness and stamina, but the advantage of age is how I feel matters more than how I look.
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 My mother never was a slim, but passed away after 90.
Jan 2, 2013 4:48PM
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This kind of article is catching on lately. I just saw an article claiming that more than a little aerobic exercise permanently damages your heart and arteries filling them with scar tissue leading to early death.

 

It seems much more likely to me that the sick care industry is afraid of healthy trends hurting their bottom line. So they are publicizing this type of propaganda in order to keep the masses needing more of their care. Maybe its just a conspiracy theory but I have noticed that following the money quite often leads to the real truth.

 

These "scientific findings" seem to me to be clear examples of the classic progression of falsehood. That is: there are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics. Caveat emptor.

Jan 3, 2013 5:21PM
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"The U.S. government report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that people with extra padding may actually have a lower risk of dying than those at an ideal weight..."

 

The US Government is the MOST UNTRUSTWORTHY SOURCE when it comes to any research or poll or study that it conducts.  Thus the research probably wasn't done correctly and this article is partially true and partially full of crap.

 

Anyone in the insurance business will tell you that physically fit people are far more ACTIVE and more likely to engage in activities that involve a greater risk of potentially losing your life, than their overweight and less physically fit counterparts.  Thus the "risk of dying" is obviously going to be higher for more physically fit and active people. 

 

BUT - that doesn't change the fact that people in insurance also know that more health issues (not necessarily related to "risk of dying") are associated with overweight and less physically active people.  This is not some hoax or a bunch of healthcare professionals afraid of "healthy trends" people...this is a fact.  You may think you are heavy and healthy - but trust me, if you are, you are among the VERY lucky ones.  Most people don't want to lose weight because of the "healthy trend" industry ... they want to lose weight to see their kids graduate from college and be at their wedding; they know that being overweight comes with it's own health issues - they KNOW IT for a fact.

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