Obesity may not be as bad as people perceive as a new study found that obese and non-obese people now share the same risk of dying early.

More specifically, the risk of early mortality among obese people has dropped from where it was four decades ago. While the rate of deaths due to any cause was higher among obese individuals than normal-weight individuals from 1976 to 1978, that was not the case from 2003 to 2013.

"The increased risk of all-cause mortality associated with obesity compared to normal weight decreased from 30% 1976-78 to 0% in 2003-13," says lead author Dr. Shoaib Afzal from the Copenhagen University Hospital.

Monitoring And Determining Premature Deaths

For the study, the team studied three groups from the general population. The first and second groups were from the Copenhagen City Heart Study. The first one was composed of 13,704 participants from 1976-1978 and the second, 9,482 from 1991-1994.

The third group, made up of 97,362 participants, came from the Copenhagen General Population Study and were collated from 2003-2013.

All the study subjects were monitored from the time that they were enrolled in the study in November 2014 until they emigrated or died.

The team conducted observational studies, wherein Body Mass Index (BMI) was categorized according to the definition of the World Health Organization.

The authors' primary goal was to determine all-cause deaths and the secondary was related to cause-specific deaths.

The findings showed the occurrence of BMI changes associated with the lowest rate of deaths due to all causes among all the three groups from 1976 to 1978.

Afzal says the ideal BMI for the lowest all-cause deaths shot up from 23.7 in 1976-1978 to 24.6 in 1991-1994, and to 27 in 2003-2013. Participants with BMI that are below or above the normal were found to have higher mortality.

Call For Change

BMI has been used to determine optimum weight. However, recent papers have questioned the accuracy of solely relying on BMI to determine the health of individuals. Researchers contend that overall health is not only dependent on weight, but on a variety of factors.

For example, in a study published in the International Journal of Obesity on Feb. 4, researchers suggested that BMI incorrectly tags millions of Americans as being obese or overweight. This was concluded after experts looked at people's BMIs together with other health parameters for holistic examination. Specifically, 47.7 percent of obese individuals as per BMI were actually healthy when other health indicators were taken into consideration.

Although the exact reason for the study findings has not yet been identified, the new study suggests the need to revise current categories to determine overweight and obese individuals.

Reminder Of Caution

Study author Børge G. Nordestgaard clarifies that the study does not convey that people can eat as much as they like and that normal-weight individuals need to eat more to amp up their weight. The message, maybe, is that overweight people need not be worried as much as before about their weight.

The study was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on May 10.

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