Fat old people live longer

Fat old people do live longer than skinny old people

by Fred Lane PhD

Getting good workouts at the gym? Want to keep your brain in shape? Try internet sites such as www.aarp.com and search there for “games.” Take your pick of on-screen trivia, crosswords or other beneficial, entertaining and educational problems.

But, at the same time, be careful to avoid obsessing about being slightly overweight. Contrary to mainstream medical and popular magazine advice, it has long been suspected that people over age 65 live longer if they are a bit fat, rather than a bit skinny. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a 20 April 2005 article (Flegal et al 2005) that strongly supports the “bit fat” position.This in turn is supported by many studies, including an important paper presented at the  2008 Australian Gerontological Conference and published in the prestigious Journal of the American Geriatric Society (Flicker et al 2010).

Major Surveys

Scientists from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) analysed data from three major American community surveys conducted between 1971 and 1994, involving nearly half a million person-years. Their findings clearly debunk myths published by the CDC in 2004 that obesity was killing an extra 400,000 people a year. The CDC  later revised this figure downwards to 365,000, but even this was found to be exaggerated.

There is no doubt that extreme obesity, as measured chiefly by belly fat, together with a lack of fitness, threatens life and increases the chance of contracting diabetes, arthritis and other potentially crippling disorders. However, it is a simple fact of life that few people with extreme obesity see their 65th birthday. On top of that, when potentially confounding factors, including smoking, sex and race, are taken into account, a body mass index (BMI) of 25-29 is not only nothing to worry about, it is suprisingly superior to the “normal” BMI.

(One of the best measures of obesity is the BMI, see the table below.)

Too rich? Too thin?

The study also confirms serious concern for those with BMIs of 18.5 or below. Contrary to Wallace Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, who said you could never be too rich or too slim, this study once more stresses the danger of being too thin after age 65.

There is no doubt that extreme obesity kills. It might well be responsible for some 112,000 extra American deaths a year in all age groups. On the other hand, being modestly overweight probably prevents 86,000 American deaths a year. Maybe modestly overweight elderly people weather medical emergencies better.

All this is no more a licence to overindulge or regress to couch potato behaviour than it is for the uncritical rejection of all the diet industry’s propaganda. Instead, as some of the propaganda correctly says, keep your brain active, exercise regularly, observe a sensible well-balanced diet and  control stress. Adopt a lifestyle that contributes to normal blood pressure and low ‘bad’ cholesterol intake. Drink alcohol moderately and ditch the cigarettes and junk food. Have regular medical checkups. However, importantly, don’t obsess about trying to get below a BMI of 25-29.

Bottom line

If you are over 65 and fit, don’t worry yourself into a depression if you can’t hit the “Normal” BMI touted by the crash diet and insurance industries. On the other hand, seek help if you can’t boost your BMI to a figure above18.5.

Reference

Flegal K., Graubard B.I. et al. Excess deaths associated with underweight, overweight and obesity. Journal of the American Medical Association. Vol 293. pp 1861-7. 2005.

Flicker,L., K. McCaul, et al. Body Mass Index and Survival in Men and Women Aged 70 to 75, Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 58:234-241, 2010.

Body Mass Index for Adults

There are two methods:

1. BMI = WEIGHT in kg divided by HEIGHT in metres SQUARED. A person 1.67m in height and weighing 65kg would have a BMI of 23.3 (BMI = 65 divided by 1.672 = 65 divided by 2.79 = 23.3). OR

2. Use the table below to determine your BMI. First, find your approximate height on the far left column. Next, move across the row to find your weight. Once you’ve found your weight, move to the very top of that column. This number is your BMI.

What does BMI mean?   BMI 18.5–24.9 = “Normal”; BMI 25.0–29.9 = Overweight;
BMI 30.0–39.9 = Obese; BMI 40.0 and above = Extreme obesity.

Height

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

1.47m (4’10”)

45.4kg
100lbs

47.6kg
105lbs

49.9kg
110lbs

52.2kg
115lbs

54.0kg
119lbs

56.3kg
124lbs

58.5kg
129lbs

60.8kg
134lbs

62.6kg
138lbs

64.9kg
143lbs

67.1kg
148lbs

1.52m(5’0″)

48.5kg
107lbs

50.8kg
112lbs

53.5kg
118lbs

55.8kg
123lbs

58.0kg
128lbs

60.3kg
133lbs

62.6kg
138lbs

64.9kg
143lbs

67.1kg
148lbs

69.4kg
153lbs

71.7kg
158lbs

1.55m(5’1″)

50.3kg
111lbs

52.6kg
116lbs

53.3kg
122lbs

57.6kg
127lbs

59.9kg
132lbs

62.1kg
137lbs

64.9kg
143lbs

76.1kg
148lbs

69.4g
153lbs

71.7kg
158lbs

74.4kg
164lbs

1.6m(5’3″)

53.5kg
118lbs

56.2kg
124lbs

59.0kg
130lbs

61.2kg
135lbs

64.0kg
141lbs

66.2kg
146lbs

68.9kg
152lbs

71.7kg
158lbs

73.9kg
163lbs

76.7kg
169lbs

79.4kg
175lbs

1.65m(5’5″)

57.2kg
126lbs

59.9kg
132lbs

62.6kg
138lbs

65.3kg
144lbs

68.0kg
150lbs

70.8kg
156lbs

73.5kg
162lbs

76.2kg
168lbs

78.9kg
174lbs

81.6kg
180lbs

84.4kg
186lbs

1.7m(5’7″)

60.8kg
134lbs

63.5kg
140lbs

66.2kg
146lbs

69.4kg
153lbs

72.1kg
159lbs

75.3kg
166lbs

78.0kg
172lbs

80.7kg
178lbs

83.9kg
185lbs

86.6kg
191lbs

89.8kg
198lbs

1.75m(5’9″)

64.4kg
142lbs

67.6kg
149lbs

70.3kg
155lbs

73.5kg
162lbs

76.7kg
169lbs

79.8kg
176lbs

82.6kg
182lbs

85.7kg
189lbs

88.9kg
196lbs

92.1kg
203lbs

94.8kg
209lbs

1.8m(5’11”)

68kg
150lbs

71.2kg
157lbs

74.8kg
165lbs

78.0kg
172lbs

81.2kg
179lbs

84.4kg
186lbs

87.5kg
193lbs

90.7kg
200lbs

94.3kg
208lbs

97.5kg
215lbs

100.7kg
222lbs

1.85m(6’1″)

72kg
159lbs

75.3kg
166lbs

78.9kg
174lbs

82.6kg
182lbs

85.7kg
189lbs

89.4kg
197lbs

92.5kg
204lbs

96.2kg
212lbs

99.3kg
219lbs

103.0kg
227lbs

106.6kg
235lbs

1.91m(6’3″)

76.2kg
168lbs

79.8kg
176lbs

83.5kg
184lbs

87.1kg
192lbs

90.7kg
200lbs

94.3kg
208lbs

98.0kg
216lbs

101.6kg
224lbs

105.23kg
232lbs

108.9kg
240lbs

112.5kg
248lbs