Study Links BMI To Early Death Risk

Study Links BMI To Early Death Risk

The U.S. National Institute of Health recognizes BMI as a useful measure to determine whether a person is overweight or obese.

Excessively high or low body mass index measurements have been linked to an increased risk of dying from almost every major cause except transport accidents, new research says.

Scientists said that people who are over or underweight may be at greater risk of death than previously expected, with obesity knocking or reducing 4.2 years off life expectancy in men, and 3.5 in women.

Krishnan Bhaskaran, lead author of the study and associate professor of statistical epidemiology suggests that BMI of between 21 to 25 kg/m2 is linked to the lowest risk of premature death due to cancer and heart disease.

"We have filled this knowledge gap to help researchers, patients and doctors better understand how underweight and excess weight might be associated with diseases such as cancer, respiratory disease and liver disease".

"BMI higher than 25, the upper end of healthy, is linked to most cancers, most cardiovascular diseases, respiratory disease, and liver and kidney conditions", Bhaskaran said.

"WCRF calls on governments to take action in creating health-enabling environments that support people in following our cancer prevention recommendations, of which one is maintaining a healthy weight".

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The findings, published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, showed that overall, both low and high BMI were associated with an increased risk of death, with an optimal BMI of between 21-25kg/m2 associated with the lowest risk of death from the two leading causes of death, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

"BMI is known to be strongly associated with all-cause mortality, but few studies have been large enough to reliably examine associations between BMI and a comprehensive range of cause-specific mortality outcomes", the report states.

It continued, "BMI was associated with all causes of death categories, except transport-related accidents, including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and respiratory diseases".

The British Journal of Cancer reported in April that obesity is linked to 7.5% of cancers in United Kingdom women. Obesity will also become the most common cause of cancer in women by 2043 if trends continue.

"For most causes of death, the bigger the weight difference, the bigger the association we observed with mortality risk".

The authors acknowledge limitations of the study including that there was no information was available on the diet or physical activity levels of people included in the study so it was not possible to look at the interplay between BMI and these related factors. The lowest risk of cancer death was at 21kg/m2, with every 5kg/m2 increase in BMI above this level being associated with a 13% higher risk. A healthy score ranges from 18.25 to 25.

Having an unhealthy BMI was also linked to other major causes of death like neurological issues and self-harm.

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