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Extra Fat Helps Elderly Live Longer

Wednesday, 29 February 2012 11:46 AM

Obesity -- the leading cause of preventable death for most people – may actually have a health benefit for people over the age of 85 and add to life expectancy, a surprising new study has found.

Researchers from Tel Aviv University have found excess fat appears to have a “protective” effect for older people and may actually reduce the risk of mortality.

The study, published in the “Journal of Aging Research,” noted that research has consistently shown that people who are underweight in old age have a higher mortality risk, but scientists have never examined whether being overweight or obese can add to life expectancy.

Until now.

The new study was based on the health records of 1,349 people -- aged of 75 to 94 -- collected as part of the Cross Sectional and Longitudinal Aging Study. Seniors were asked about their height and weight, age, gender, family, education, socioeconomic status and smoking history. Two decades after the surveys were completed, researchers tracked the death records of the participants – 95 percent of whom had died.

What they found is that obesity appeared to be a contributing factor to the deaths of those aged 75-84. But after the age of 85, seniors deemed obese were not only at lower risk of death than their underweight peers, but also appeared to be less at risk than those who had a normal weight as well.

Just why this is so isn’t clear. But researchers noted heavier people in the study also had lower rates of osteoporosis, which could decrease incidences of falls and subsequent injuries that can lead to death. Obesity may also provide excess energy storage in times of trauma or stress, or prolong the period of weight loss caused by a decrease in appetite, a common occurrence as people near death.

“In sum, with the increasing numbers of old-old persons and of their life expectancy, extra attention is often given to avoiding obesity,” researchers concluded. “Current findings suggest that such an emphasis may not apply to those advancing towards old-old age, at least as far as mortality is concerned.”

© HealthDay

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Obesity has a health benefit for people over 85, a new study has found.
Wednesday, 29 February 2012 11:46 AM
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