From: University of Bristol
Published December 1, 2017 11:09 AM

Harmful Effects of Being Overweight Underestimated

The harmful effects of being overweight have been underestimated, according to a new study that analysed body mass index (BMI), health and mortality data in around 60,000 parents and their children, to establish how obesity actually influences risk of death. The University of Bristol study is published today in the International Journal of Epidemiology today [Friday 1 December].

Previous studies have suggested that the optimum BMI, at which the risk of death is minimised, appears to be above the range normally recommended by doctors, leading to claims it is good for health to be mildly overweight. However, scientists suspect these studies do not reflect the true effect of BMI on health, because early stages of illness, health-damaging behaviours, such as cigarette smoking, and other factors can lead to both lower BMI and increased risk of death. This makes it difficult to estimate how BMI actually influences risk of death (the causal effect), as opposed to the observed association between BMI and risk of death. This aim of this study was to assess the causal link between BMI and risk of death.

Using HUNT, a Norwegian population-based health cohort study based in a rural county with 130,000 residents, the Bristol Medical School team, with co-workers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, were able to see how mortality in the parents related to both their own BMI (the conventional approach) and to the BMI of their adult children. Because BMI of parents and their offspring is related, due to genetic factors, offspring BMI is an indicator of the BMI of the parents. The BMI of adult children is not influenced by illness among the parents, therefore using offspring BMI avoids the problems inherent in simply relating the BMI of the parents to their risk of death.

Read more at University of Bristol

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