Obesity, Diabetes and Death Rates: It's Complicated

A new study reveals that the link between obesity and death risk is stronger among adults who do not have diabetes than among people who do have the disease.

The findings complicate how health experts should approach population studies that look at diabetes, death rates and obesity, said researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health.

The study

Chandra Jackson and colleagues analyzed data on 75,000 American adults between the ages of 35 and 75. The participants were part of the U.S. National Health Interview Survey and were followed for six years.

While people in the study who had diabetes – about 5 percent of the total sample – also had higher death rates than nondiabetics, the study found that overweight people without the disease had higher death rates than overweight people with diabetes.

In general, obesity can increase risk for cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer and Type 2 diabetes – which sets individuals up for an earlier death than people of normal weight.

Implications

While the findings of the study were surprising, Jackson said they might represent a paradox that can occur in the methodological limitations inherent in these types of studies.

"It may be due to a commonly observed phenomenon in chronic disease epidemiology called 'reverse causation,' where a person's weight at the time of the survey can be affected by their disease if it leads to weight loss and muscle wasting during advanced stages," Jackson said in a journal news release.

Maintaining a healthy weight – whether you are diabetic or not – should continue to be a goal, Jackson concluded.

Results of the study are published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Source: Health Day

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