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BMI Thresholds May Be Too Restrictive for Older Adults

Being overweight doesn't raise mortality risk, but being sedentary does, especially for women

MONDAY, Feb. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Body mass index thresholds are too restrictive for older adults, who are at no greater risk of mortality if they are overweight versus normal weight, according to a study in the February issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Leon Flicker, Ph.D., of the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research in Perth, and colleagues conducted a study of 4,677 men and 4,563 women, aged 70 to 75 years, who were followed up for 10 years. Data on all-cause and cause-specific mortality due to cardiovascular disease, cancer and chronic respiratory disease was collected.

Overweight participants had the lowest overall risk of mortality, at 13 percent less than that for normal weight participants, the researchers found. The risk of death was similar for obese and normal-weight people. However, for women who were sedentary, the risk of mortality was double that of their active counterparts, regardless of body mass index, while the risk was 28 percent higher for sedentary versus active men, the investigators note.

"These results add further credence to claims that the World Health Organization body mass index thresholds for overweight and obese are overly restrictive for older people," the authors write. "Overweight older people are not at greater mortality risk, and there is little evidence that dieting in this age group confers any benefit; these findings are consistent with the hypothesis that weight loss is harmful."

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