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Study Challenges Existence of the Obesity Paradox

CardioSmart News

A recent study disproves the so-called "obesity paradox," based on data that links obesity to increased risk for heart disease and a shorter life.

Published in JAMA Cardiology, this study looked at the association between weight, heart disease and longevity. It tested the idea of an obesity paradox, which suggests that overweight adults live longer than those with a healthy weight.

The study included data from ten large U.S. studies, which tracked the health of more than 190,000 middle-aged adults from 1964–2015. To be included in the analysis, participants had to be free of heart disease at the start of the study and followed for a minimum of ten years.

Overall, researchers found that overweight and obese adults were significantly more likely to develop heart disease than those with a normal weight. Overweight men had 21% greater risk for heart disease compared to those with normal weight, and overweight women had 32% greater risk for developing heart disease. The more overweight adults were, the greater their risk for heart disease. Obese adults had 67–85% higher risk for heart disease, while morbidly obese adults had up to three times greater risk for heart disease than those who were normal weight.

Also, unlike findings supporting the obesity paradox, this study found that obese adults had significantly shorter survival overall than those with normal weight. The average survival time was 29 years among normal and overweight adults, while obese adults survived an average of 23-27 years in the study. The average age at the start of the study was 46 for men and 59 for women.

Researchers also found that adults with a healthy weight had more disease-free years than those who were overweight and obese adults.

What findings confirm, according to authors, is the strong link between overweight and increased cardiovascular risk. They also challenge the obesity paradox and the idea that overweight is associated with a longer life. Studies continue to show that overweight and obesity greatly increase risk for heart disease—America’s No. 1 killer. Findings confirm that maintaining a healthy weight helps adults live longer, healthier lives.

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