THURSDAY, Jan. 28, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Despite the warnings that being overweight will kill you, a new Australian study finds that overweight adults over the age of 70 are less likely to die over a 10-year period than their normal-weight peers.
The study, published Jan. 28 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, conflicts with research that suggests that being overweight contributes to a long list of health problems, including heart disease.
"Our study suggests that those people who survive to age 70 in reasonable health have a different set of risks and benefits associated with the amount of body fat to younger people," lead researcher Leon Flicker, of the University of Western Australia, said in a news release from the journal's publisher.
Flicker and colleagues looked at a decade's worth of data regarding the health of more than 9,200 Australians aged 70 to 75 in 1996 when the study began. Australia is ranked as the third most obese country in the world after the United States and the United Kingdom, the study authors noted.
The study defined overweight and obesity levels based on body mass index, a measurement that takes weight and height into account. The four weight categories used in the study included underweight, normal weight, overweight and obese.
Those who were overweight -- a step below obese -- faced a 13 percent lower risk of death compared with those who were normal weight. But there was no benefit found for those who were obese, the study authors noted.
The researchers also found that being sedentary doubled the risk of death for women and raised it by one-quarter for men.
According to the study authors, it may be time to reevaluate the system that determines who is overweight and obese.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine provides information on obesity.