Desirable body weight

Figure 6.1 shows the relationship between body weight and premature death. It is based on a study of 750,000 people, who were classified according to their percentage of the average weight of the study group, then followed for 15 years. There is a steady

<80 85 95 105 115 125 135 >140 weight as percent of mean

Figure 6.1 Excess mortality with obesity. From data reported by Garfinkel L (1986) Cancer 58: 1826-1829.

increase in mortality with increasing body weight above average, so that people who were 50—60% over average weight were twice as likely to die prematurely as those of average weight.

People who were significantly below average weight at the beginning of the study were also more at risk of premature death. However, this may be because those people who were significantly underweight were already seriously ill (section 8.4), rather than implying that a moderate degree of underweight is undesirable or poses any health hazards.

Figure 6.1 also shows that people whose weight was about 90% of the average were less likely to die prematurely than those of average weight. Such data make it possible to define a range of body weight, somewhat below average weight, which is associated with optimum life expectancy. The ranges of desirable weight for height, based on insurance company data of life expectancy, are shown in Figure 6.2.

<80 85 95 105 115 125 135 >140 weight as percent of mean

Figure 6.1 Excess mortality with obesity. From data reported by Garfinkel L (1986) Cancer 58: 1826-1829.

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