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Can being overweight ever be good for you?

We know that people who are overweight are generally more prone to health problems like heart disease and diabetes. But there appears to be growing body of research which suggests that overweight people seem to have a better chance of surviving these chronic diseases. This phenomenon is known as ‘obesity paradox’ and it seems to contradict everything we’ve been told about eating healthily and maintaining a healthy weight. So should we be worried about those extra pounds?


The most popular and convenient method for estimating obesity is the body mass index (BMI). BMI is a ratio of weight to height (weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in metres).

The obesity paradox may be partly explained by the use of BMI as a measure of fat. The problem is that BMI is a crude and flawed measure because it does not take into account many confounding factors. For instance it cannot differentiate between lean body mass and fat mass, which means that many fit and muscly people, and tall people, have a high BMI.

Furthermore, BMI doesn’t take body fat distribution into account. The fat that is really bad for you is around your belly. If you’ve got this, it’s not going to be good for your health at all. So the message is: try to ignore the headlines, but try to ignore BMI too. The main thing to keep an eye on is your waist measurement.