The protagonist of Paul Simon’s 1986 hit ‘You Can Call Me Al’ worries he has gone “soft in the middle”, but the results of a recent Danish study have shown that those a bit thicker across the middle live longer than those of normal or below normal weight.
Professor Børge Nordestgaard headed the study conducted in conjunction with colleagues from Herlev Hospital and the University of Copenhagen. The results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Bigger might be better
The study concluded that people with a body mass index (BMI) of 27 live longest. BMI measures a person’s weight relative to their height. The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies anyone with a BMI of above 25 as overweight and anyone above 30 as ‘obese’.
“We call those with a BMI of 27 overweight, and they actually live the longest,” Nordestgaard told Politiken. “We need to develop a more nuanced view of weight and being overweight.”
The study showed that an optimal BMI in relation to life expectancy has shifted over the past decades.
Moving target weight
In the 1970s, the BMI with the lowest mortality rate was 23.7, within what is classified ‘normal’ BMI. In 1991-94 it had increased to 24.6, and now it stands at 27.0.
Nordestgaard said the increase in the optimal BMI may be due to improved treatment of obesity-related diseases. He also stressed that being extremely overweight can still result in lifestyle-related health issues.