Researchers looked at mortality data and found that people with BMIs in the overweight or obese category were more likely to have died for any reason, including cardiovascular disease and cancer, than those with BMIs in the normal range. (Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/iStockphoto)
The question

Being overweight has been shown to affect health in a variety of ways. Ultimately, might it affect how long someone can expect to live?

This study

The researchers analyzed data from three studies, involving 225,072 men and women, first determining their highest weight during a 16-year period and, from that, calculating their highest body mass index (BMI). Then, starting when the participants were in their 50s and 60s, the researchers collected ­mortality data for about a 12-year period. In that span, 32,571 ­people died. Those whose highest BMI during the 16-year period put them in the overweight or obese category were more likely to have died for any reason, including cardiovascular disease and cancer, than were those whose highest BMI indicated a normal, healthy weight. Men or women whose highest BMI ­remained within the normal range were the least likely to have died.

Who may be affected

People who are overweight or obese at some point in their adult life. BMI is a statistical measure of whether a person is of normal weight, overweight or obese based on whether the person’s weight and height are in proportion. For most adults, a BMI below 18.5 is considered underweight, 18.5 to 24.9 is normal weight, 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight and 30 and above is obese. For example, to fall in the normal range, someone who is 5-foot-9 would need to weigh 125 to 168 pounds.

Caveats

Data on the participants’ weight came from their responses over the years on periodic questionnaires. Nearly all participants were white.

Find this study

Online April 4 in Annals of Internal Medicine (annals.org).

Learn more about

Information on the importance of a healthy weight, including online calculators to ­determine your BMI, is available at cdc.gov/healthyweight and ­nhlbi.nih.gov/health (click on “Aim for a Healthy Weight”).

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals.