There exists an ongoing debate—within the public health community, at least—over the difference a few extra pounds has on overall health. For many years, actually, researchers had said that the data showed a few extra pounds might actually help to prolong lifespan (though obesity, as we have always understood it, remains a significant mortality risk factor.
Unfortunately, though, the new study—published in the Annals of Internal Medicine—suggests that being even slightly overweight could have the potential to notably reduce a person’s life span. That, of course, is a little bit more inline with how people traditionally think about weight and weight loss.
“Overall, for the population as a whole, the increased risk associated with overweight is modest,” when compared to risk for outright obesity, explains lead study researcher Andrew Stokes. The Boston University assistant professor of global health also notes that these risks are higher among other demographics, like those who are under the age of 70.
He is also quick to remind that these findings only apply to people who are deemed to be overweight but not obese. That is quite an important distinction. Obviously, there is little debate over the health risks of obesity. The term “overweight” is defined as having a body mass index between 25 and 29.9; the equivalent of about 10 to 30 additional pounds. The term “obesity” is defined as having a body mass index higher than 30.
Data shows us that roughly 38 percent of Americans, over the age of o20, are considered to be overweight, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This does not necessarily imply that all of these people are unhealthy. The CDC also warns, however, that another 30 percent of adults in the United States fall into that obesity category.
It is also quite important to note that there is another debate within this conversation over how accurately these categorize actually reflect health differences. Again, “overweight” does not necessarily mean “unhealthy.” Similar creedence could be given to some obese people, too. After all, it was a collection of 97 independent CDC studies (compiled in 2013) which suggested that slightly overweight people have a slightly longer lifespan in the first place.
In any case, what matters at the end of the day is your health. If you are eating healthy and getting fresh and air exercise—even just moderately—you should be able to keep your weight in a healthy place and can expect to live many respectable years.