Two scientific studies released this week came up with divergent, but perhaps complimentary results about obesity and weight loss, with one study by York University in Toronto finding that being overweight or even obese does not by itself increase the risk of dying, according to the paper published in the scientific journal Clinical Obesity.
But another scientific study, this one by researchers at Madras Diabetes Research Foundation in Chennai, India, and published in the online scientific journal PLOS One, found that there is, indeed, an increased risk of mortality not among obese people — but among people who are too thin.
"We're not saying that people should aim to get fat, only that some people who are overweight or obese may be perfectly healthy, metabolically," researcher Ranjit Mohan Anjana, a diabetes specialist, told India's Telegraph newspaper.
That finding appears to line up with the York University study, which found that obese people who do not have a separate metabolic risk factor — such as elevated blood sugar, or high blood pressure — have no greater risk of dying than non-obese people, according to a summary of the study published by Science Daily.
The study, which covered an expansive sample size of 54,089 men and women, should help change the way society views people with obesity, according to the study's lead author Jennifer Kuk of York University's School of Kinesiology and Health Science. The study shows that obesity alone is not necessarily an unhealthy condition.
In other words, for overweight people who do not have another risk factor condition, the struggle to shave pounds may be a waste of time, at least as far as the individual's health is concerned, according to the scientific news site Eureka Alert.
"We're showing that individuals with metabolically healthy obesity are actually not at an elevated mortality rate. We found that a person of normal weight with no other metabolic risk factors is just as likely to die as the person with obesity and no other risk factors," Kuk said. "This means that hundreds of thousands of people in North America alone with metabolically healthy obesity will be told to lose weight when it's questionable how much benefit they'll actually receive."
On the other hand, according to Mohan, the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation study found that underweight people "may lack vital nutrients, leading to complications, including death," according to a report on the study by the Times of India.
"Being underweight was associated with a significantly higher risk of all-cause mortality in the overall study cohort, whereas overweight and obesity were not," the researcher said.