Health Risk Is Fat, Not Body Size

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People who pack too much body fat, even if they aren’t large, have a higher risk of dying early compared to people who have some, but not too much, body fat. Researchers at the University of Manitoba reviewed data on more than 54,000 people who had undergone DXA scans to measure bone density. The DXA scan also provides an estimate of a person’s body fat percentage. Men in the top 20% had at least 36% body fat and were up to 59% more likely to die during the seven-year study than were men with a body fat of 28% to 32%. For women, those with a body fat of 39% were 19% more likely to die early compared to women with a body fat in the 30% to 34% range. Only body fat, not BMI measurements, were a tell-tale sign of early death. The researchers conclude that, “ it is important to be attuned to what you’re made of, rather than just how much you weigh.”

According to a study from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, if and how a person gains weight over a lifetime determines cancer risk. Compared to people who maintain a lean-stable weight throughout life, those women who gained weight had a higher risk for colorectal, esophageal, pancreatic, kidney, and endometrial cancers. Men who gained weight throughout life had higher risks for esophageal, colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.

Padwal R, Leslie W, Lix L, et al: Relationship among body fat percentage, body mass index and all-cause mortality. Annals of Internal Medicine 2016;March 8th.

Song M, Willett W, Hu F, et al: Trajectory of body shape across the lifespan and cancer risk. International Journal of Cancer 2016; 138:2383-2395.

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