Think Skinny Is Healthier? Maybe Not!

It seems that we are bombarded by exhortations to lose weight. Everything will be better if we can just lose some weight. Surprise! It turns out that being too skinny is far more unhealthy than being to fat.

A recent medical study, published in the American Board of Family Medicine, looked at over 50,000 adult Americans and their health over a period of six years. The research correlated each person’s Body Mass Index (BMI) with their likelihood of death. Adjustments were made for health factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes as well as smoking and socioeconomic factors.

The results of the study were surprising. People with BMIs below 20, considered to be “underweight” were the most likely to die. That's right: being too thin increases your risk of death. Their mortality rate was about double that of obese (BMIs over 35)  or overweight people (BMIs between 30 and 35) and 2.5 times that of people with “normal” BMIs of 25-30.

This is not an endorsement for overeating. Diabetes (type II) and high blood pressure can be brought on by being overweight. These diseases can shorten your life, but this study adjusted out their influence.

Other influences on mortality were noted. Not too surprisingly, it is healthier to be wealthy than poor. Wealthy people had a 30% lower mortality than poor people. 

People with public health insurance had higher mortality rates than people with private insurance, and even died more often than people with no insurance at all. The Midwest was the healthiest region in which to live and college graduates had 35% lower mortality than high school drop-outs.

What can be made of all of these statistics? Ideally you should become a college-educated, wealthy person of average or somewhat higher-than-average weight living in Iowa. Don’t smoke, watch your hypertension and blood sugar and have lots of friends. With this formula, science predicts a long and happy life!

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