Obesity May Lengthen Life Expectancy, Say Japanese Researchers

Obesity is a dangerous disease that often underlies a host of other medical issues, from high blood pressure to diabetes. However, a new study by the Japanese government says that people who are overweight at the age of 40 live longer than their thinner peers.

obese people live longer study showsA new study by the Japanese Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry found that all other factors being equal, forty-year-olds who are overweight have longer average life spans than their skinny peers.

The research took more than 12 years to complete and studied 50,000 people between the ages of 40 and 79 in the northern Japanese prefecture of Miyagi. Researchers paid special attention to each person’s build, body-mass history, and how many years past age forty they lived. The men who had a BMI within the normal range at age 40 lived for an average 79.74 years. However, those who made it to 40 despite being clinically obese lived to an average age of 81.64 years old.

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The ladies also lived longer with a few extra pounds. Women of normal BMI at age 40 lived to an average age of 87.97 years; overweight women, however, got a smidgen more time on earth, crossing the Big Finish Line at an average age of 88.05 years.

Any idea why? Not a clue, say the researchers. Some scientists theorize that the tendency of thinner people to have shorter lives may have something to do with smoking habits. Smoking seems to keep the weight down in many people, after all; it also tends to kill you earlier.

Whatever the cause, the researchers behind the study stress that the chance of a few extra months or years of life is not a good reason to pack on the pounds. It should also be noted that obesity in Japan starts at a BMI of 25, which is considered overweight — not obese — by U.S. standards.

American doctors classify patients with a BMI of 30 or greater as being obese. So, those patients who Japanese researchers considered clinically obese — and who had a slightly longer life expectancy than the more svelte study subjects — may only be deemed moderatly overweight by American standards.

All things considered, say the researchers, it’s best to maintain a healthy weight, and enjoy the life you have.

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