Overweight but Healthy? The Latest on the Science of ‘Fat but Fit’


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During the early 2000s, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked into the association between body size and early death. They wanted to determine how much being underweight or overweight increased a person’s risk for mortality.

Their findings, which appeared in JAMA, revealed some surprises.

“Being overweight was associated with lower mortality than being underweight, which we didn’t expect to find,” says Katherine Flegal, PhD, one of the authors of the CDC study and a consulting professor at Stanford University.

In fact, her study found that people who were overweight according to their body mass index (meaning a BMI between 25 and 30) had no increased risk of death compared with people whose BMIs fell in the “normal” range (18.5 to 25).

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