Overweight septuagenarians less likely to die early: Study

The study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society on Thursday followed 4,677 men and 4,563 women aged 70 to 75 years, over a 10-year period starting1996. Apart from the 'body mass index' (BMI) of the members of the cohort, which estimates a person's body fat, the researches also factored in the state of their health and their lifestyle.

Participants in the 'overweight' category, according to the BMI classification scale were 13 per cent less likely to die than those classified as being of normal weight.

The benefits were however limited to those under the classified category and not those who were obese.

"These results add evidence to the claims that the WHO (World Health Organization) BMI thresholds for overweight and obese are overly restrictive for older people. It may be timely to review the BMI classification for older adults," said Leon Flicker, of the University of Western Australia and the lead researcher.

Although excess pounds lessened the risk of death for both men and women over 70, a sedentary lifestyle was found to double the risk among women and increased it 25 per cent among men.

"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, and these should be reflected in BMI guidelines," Flicker added.