NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 7, 2007

Being overweight boosts the risk of dying from diabetes and kidney disease but not cancer or heart disease, and carrying some extra pounds appears to protect against some other causes of death, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to CDC researchers:

  • Obesity raised the risk of death from heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease, and several cancers previously linked with excess weight, including breast, colon and pancreatic cancer.
  • But being overweight but not obese was not associated with excess mortality from cancer or heart disease.
  • Being overweight provides an apparent protective effect against all other causes of death, such as tuberculosis, emphysema, pneumonia, Alzheimer's and injuries.

Although the study did not examine why being overweight might guard against dying from some diseases, Katherine Flegal, a senior research scientist at the CDC, said other research has suggested extra heft might supply the body with vital reserves to draw upon to fight illness and aid recovery.

But not all agree, including Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.  "It's just ludicrous to say there is no increased risk of mortality from being overweight," said Willet.

Source: Rob Stein, "Little extra weight may not be bad," Seattle Times, November 7, 2007.

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