Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fitness may be more important than weight loss

This is a good message for all who have put lots of effort in fitness exercise only to be frustrated by the less than expected weight loss. Do not give up: Fit people of middle age, even when obese, are less likely to die early than average people of the same age with a lower body mass index (BMI). This conclusion can be drawn from a very surprising study result: In a special test group at Stanford University in Palo Alto, obese men have found to live longer than the average.

This is quite the contrary to what most other studies say. Obviously, one single study cannot prove them false. But it may lead us to a better truth than before. That's why I love such paradoxical results.

Now to the facts. More than six thousand military veterans, around sixty years old, have been tested for fitness, and their BMI has been assessed. Seven years later, on average, they have been contacted again which was impossible for 23 percent of them because they had died. And now the surprise: These had, on average, a lower BMI than those who had survived. The association is quite clear: Obese veterans were 22 percent less likely to die early. When the fitness was taken into account, this difference was even more clear with a 35 percent lower risk of the obese versus the normal-weight veterans.

The Stanford researchers see two main reasons for this paradox: The tested veterans have been fitter than the average population and most likely had been slimmer in younger years, getting obese only later in life.

Take home message
Fitness is very important, above all for overweight and obese men (and most likely also for women). Obesity later in life may be less harmful than in younger years.

This post has been featured by Grand Rounds, Volume 3, Number 37, at Inside Surgery. It presents a selection of the best posts about the process of getting or being sick, people in the news, technology in medicine and health, news from the babe world and many other issues. Enjoy!

(Picture by tomswift46 @ Flickr)

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