Filed Under: Big Fat Lies

Studies Questioning The Obesity-Mortality Link

Many researchers who have examined the link between obesity and mortality have concluded that the presumed relationship is greatly exaggerated. The following statements appeared in peer-reviewed journals:

“Many longitudinal cohort studies reported no direct relationship between bodyweight and mortality; in others a negative relationship was observed.”
International Journal of Obesity Related Metabolic Disorders, 1996

“Increased body mass index was marginally associated with reduced risk of mortality … In many studies overall obesity — often expressed as an elevated body mass index — has not been significantly related to myocardial infarction.”

British Medical Journal, 1993

“Studies on the relation between body weight and mortality have shown inconsistent results … we did not find an increased mortality at the upper end of the BMI distribution.”
Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 1997

“…some prospective epidemiological studies have reported, consistent with present data, that caloric intake is inversely associated with CVD [cardiovascular disease] mortality. A 12-year follow-up of women in Gothenburg, Sweden, a 10-year follow-up of Japanese men residing in the island of Oahu (Honolulu Heart Program), and a 6-year Puerto Rico Heart Health Program (8218 men) Study have all reported an inverse association between dietary caloric intake and CVD events even after adjusting for other CVD risk factors.
American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 2003

“These results suggest that high levels of obesity indicators are only slightly associated with an excess mortality and that overweight and obesity are health hazards only if they are accompanied by an elevation of other risk factors, mainly of blood pressure … Everything else being equal, the contribution of elevated levels of BMI to the risk of dying in the next 10 years is limited … The limited role of elevated BMI in general mortality when other risk factors, mainly [blood pressure], do not increase together with BMI is confirmed also by the simple analyses reported.”
Preventative Medicine, 1993

“Many studies have reported no association between body weight and mortality. [Dr. Ancel] Keys’ review of 13 prospective studies found that only one showed a definite univariate relationship between overweight and CHD. Similarly, review of 16 prospective studies of obesity and mortality led Andres to conclude that obesity does not influence total mortality the way one would expect.”
American Journal of Public Health, 1989

“…the lowest mortality rates were experienced by people with body weights well above those recommended as “desirable” by the Society of Actuaries in 1959. Thus, the applicability of the “desirable” weight standards in common use is questioned.”
American Journal of Epidemiology, 1982

“Some of the most respected epidemiological studies of the relationship between weight and mortality have been conducted by Ancel Keys, who coordinated 16 separate long-term prospective studies in seven different countries. Keys concluded: ‘In none of the areas of this study was overweight or obesity a major risk factor for death, or the incidence of coronary disease.'”
Journal of Obesity and Weight Regulation, 1987

“The resulting empirical findings from each of four race/sex groups, which are representative of the US population, demonstrate a wide range of BMIs consistent with minimum mortality and do not suggest that the optimal BMI is at the lower end of the distribution for any subgroup.”
American Journal of Epidemiology, 1998

“Optimal weight (or BMI) for longevity remains an enigma for several methodological reasons: 1) survival analyses are often based on a single body weight measured or recalled at one point in time and at a variable age. Obvious potential errors include inaccurate reporting, a poorly calibrated scale, the variable weight of clothing and shoes, and the effect of a meal or hydration. Furthermore, the frequency and amplitude of intercurrent weight fluctuations and/or any change in body weight that occurs with aging are not accounted for during the follow-up period; 2) body weight is determined by a complex interaction of behavioral, cultural, socioeconomic, psychological, physiological, and genetic factors, many of which independently influence longevity. Hence, body weight may be a marker for other significant variables that may directly or indirectly relate to longevity, such as the level of physical activity, functional capacity, or the quantity and composition of the diet; 3) body weight or BMI provides only limited information about body composition and changes that occur in response to fitness, illness, aging, and the like.”
Nutrition Reviews, 1993

“The levels of BMI carrying the minimum risk of death are higher than expected–that is, about 29 units of BMI for middle aged men, 27 to 29 units for young women, and nearly 32 units for middle aged women.”
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 1998

“Neither coronary heart disease nor cancer, the two leading causes of death, was significantly associated with BMI.”
Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 1990

“After 15 years of follow up in the seven countries study Keys et al. could not find an excess risk for death from all causes or coronary heart disease with increasing weight in any of the regions surveyed.”
British Medical Journal, 1987

“Overweight is not consistently associated with coronary heart disease … the available data do not support the hypothesis that obesity causes atherosclerosis.”
Annals of Internal Medicine, 1985

“Among the women, there was no consistent relationship between body mass index and mortality.”
JAMA, 1983

“The minimum mortality [for women over 50] occurred at a BMI of approximately 34.”
Journal of Women’s Health, 1998

“Preventing overweight would have had only a negligible effect on mortality in the present study population; this confirms the results of several studies that document only a weak association between high body weight and mortality.”
British Medical Journal, 1990

“…nine-year mortality data from NHANES I were analyzed … mortality for all women combined did not vary according to BMI. For men, a small positive effect was seen only in the highest BMI category.”
Nutrition Reviews, 1993

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