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Being Overweight Has Health Benefits?

Jul 17, 2014 06:14 PM EDT
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After knowing just how much harm obesity can cause, it is hard to believe that any extra poundage may actually have its benefits. However, this is exactly what researchers are now claiming, according to a pair of recent studies.

The studies, published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, detail findings supporting a little known medical theory called the "obesity paradox" in which some factors associated with additional body fat may actually help protect against certain medical conditions including cardiovascular problems.

Of course, many past studies have found an association between cardiovascular problems like heart disease. However, these studies never truly found a causal link between obesity and heart disease. Instead, obesity and a number of cardiovascular complications simply share the same cause, poor eating habits.

In fact, high cholesterol, a huge risk factor for cardiovascular disease, can start at a young age, regardless of weight. A recent survey in Texas found that 35 percent of children at 'healthy' weights reported alarmingly high cholesterol counts, according to preliminary data presented last March at the the 63rd American College of Cardiology's annual meeting.

In the first of these more recent studies, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of past outcomes among coronary artery disease (CAD) following drastic surgery. Amazingly, the analysis found that the patients with the lowest cardiovascular mortality and heart attack risk following a procedure were overweight, as compared to patients with a "healthy" weight.

"This population may have a higher metabolic reserve, which might act protectively in chronic conditions like CAD," lead author Abhishek Sharma, explained in a statement. He also added that prior medication may also play a role, where obese patients are more likely to be taking statins to help protect cardiovascular health.

More research of-course, will need to be conducted to determine the true drivers of this data.

In a second study of nearly 48,000 participants, researchers found that in very specific scenarios, increased body fat can result in an up-to 29 percent lower risk of death, while being underweight can spike mortality rates.

Commenting on these studies, Dr. Kamyar Kalantar-Zadeh of the Department of Medicine at the University of California Irvine Medical Center is quick to point out that in no way do these findings undermined prior understanding of the negative long-term impacts of obesity.

"Nonetheless," he added, "given the preponderance and consistency of epidemiologic data, there should be little doubt that in certain populations higher BMI confers short-term survival and cardiovascular advantages."

Both studies were published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings on July 16.

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