If these women both had heart attacks, which one would be worse off?
The answer is of course the thin one.
Epidemiologists have been looking over the data on millions of patients and have come up with some surprising facts. It seems that thin patients are twice as likely to die after a heart attack than overweight or obese patients. And this finding and huge U turn is not restricted to people with cardiovascular disease . A study found that normal weight people with diabetes are twice more likely to die than overweight or obese people with diabetes and there are similar results for rheumatoid arthritis and kidney disease patients. This research has led to another even larger study that looked at the relationship between a persons's weight and their health in 2.9 million people. The startling conclusion is that people who are overweight or slightly obese have a lower risk of dying than those who are underweight or obese. The researchers are quick to point out that this is not a licence to put on weight and that lack of exercise, overeating and poor nutrition are still connected with diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
It seems that one of the problems with modern research into the effects of obesity, is the BMI measurement. The Body Mass Index (BMI) calculation was developed in the 1800's as a way of trying to define what is 'normal' for a person. The BMI is actually a fairly vague way of defining if a person is overweight, as muscle weighs more than fat and so a fit well muscled athlete would have a high BMI and be classed as overweight. Even though we know that the BMI is too hit and miss to be used for such research, it is often the only measurement available for such studies.
However given the numbers of people involved in the studies (2.9 million) there would not be enough well muscled body builders to skew the results. So it's food for thought. If you can't be normal it's better to be overweight than underweight.