The relationship between BMI and mortality has been much-debated among heart researchers.
This new report comes on the heels of another meta-analysis that revealed a surprising pattern: While obesity increases the risk of dying early, being slightly overweight appears to reduce it.
That study, involving almost 3 million adults, was published Jan. 2 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
"For people with a medical condition, survival is slightly better for people who are slightly heavier," said study author Katherine Flegal, a senior research scientist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.
Several factors may account for this finding, Flegal added. "Maybe heavier people present to the doctor earlier, or get screened more often," she told HealthDay. "Fat itself may be cardioprotective, or someone who is heavier might be more resilient and better able to stand a shock to their system."
Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a spokesman for the American Heart Association and professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said researchers recognize existence of an "obesity paradox."
"Numerous studies have demonstrated that among patients diagnosed with coronary artery disease . . . patients who are in the overweight and obese categories by body mass index have lower risk of mortality compared to patients in the healthy weight category," he said.
Other studies have shown that central obesity -- measured by larger waist circumference or waist-hip ratio -- is also associated with increased mortality, particularly in those where their BMI is in the healthy weight category, he said.
"The finding of this and other studies suggests that central obesity, wh
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