CLEVELAND — We know health risks associated with obesity include high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes to name a few.
But new research shows slowly adding on pounds as you age may actually help you live longer.
Researchers at The Ohio State University reviewed the medical histories of more than 8,000 parents and children, which included tracking their body mass index. They found patients who started with a normal BMI, adding small amounts of weight as they aged, survived the longest.
“I was quite fascinated to read about it. Because obviously, you know, it sort of goes against the grain,” said Dr. Roy Buchinsky, Director of Wellness at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.
However, researchers stress weight gain should happen later in life, not in early adulthood. They say you should avoid reaching the point of obesity. Though according to the study, younger generations are reaching obesity earlier than their parents did. They are also more likely to have deaths linked to increasing obesity.
The findings left doctors like Buchinsky asking more questions.
“The question is, how does being overweight compared to being a normal weight, how does that protect you? And the answer is, I truly don't know,” he said. ‘I’m going to reach out to my national colleagues and ask them if they have any reason to think that this is something that has some legs on it or if it’s just a one-time finding.”
As he pointed out, obesity is now the number one risk factor for disease.
“Whilst this observational study is very, very interesting and intriguing, I'm still not prepared to write a prescription for my patients to gain weight as they get older,” said Dr. Buchinsky. “The more overweight one is the more inflammation is occurring in your body and the more inflammation, the more risk factor for concern, dementia, diabetes, heart disease, etc. That is the key to why we as healthcare providers are so persistent in trying to reduce the body mass index, which by the way I find is not as often a very accurate assessment of one's particular health status, but also your percentage of body fat.”
Dr. W Scott Butsch, director of obesity medicine in the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, shares those concerns.
“We have to recognize obesity as a disease. We have to realize that small changes in our weight over time can really increase our risk of developing chronic diseases,” he said.