People who are naturally lean have the lowest mortality risk while those bearing a heavy body shape since childhood have the highest rate, according to a study published in The BMJ.
Being lean is often associated with better health as opposed to being overweight. But, what about body shape? The researchers of the new study have analysed the evolution of body shape and its link, if any, with the rate of mortality. They made use of data from two large-scale studies; 80,266 women and 36,622 men were involved.
The participants reported their body shape at different ages throughout their life: 5, 10, 20, 30, and 40 years old. Their body mass index at the age of 50 was also recorded. They were followed from the age of 60. They also provided an extensive amount of information pertaining to their lifestyle and diet.
Interpreting the data, the researchers spotted 5 different body shapes:
- Lean-moderate increase
- Lean-marked increase
The results show that those maintaining the lean-stable shape for all the years also had the lowest mortality while the highest mortality was correlated with those who claimed being heavy in childhood, and who kept a similar trend in weight, or who gained more weight over time (specially in middle age).
Therefore, the authors say that their findings support the logic relating to the importance of weight of management. They add that avoiding weight gain in middle life is of particular relevance to ensure long-term benefits.
Another recent study adds more bulk to these findings as it supports the concept of body mass index (BMI) being correlated with higher risks of mortality. According to this research, a greater BMI is linked with a decreased life expectancy, but the ideal BMI with the lowest mortality remains unknown. Also, it is to be noted that the first study only linked high levels of obesity with increased mortality risks; that is, overweight people were found to have decreased mortality when compared to normal weight.
The first study also says that the link between BMI and mortality is affected by other factors such as smoking and other health conditions.
To conclude, the researchers highlight the importance of keeping a healthy weight, but they also admit it is a major challenge to maintain the right weight while preventing any unhealthy weight gain.