Yearly Archives: 2013

Ask the Expert: Does being overweight really decrease mortality? No!

 The Expert: Dr. Walter Willett

Dr. Walter Willett

Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology, and Chair, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health


A recent JAMA study got major media attention when it claimed that grade 1 obesity (BMI 30-<35) was not associated with any greater mortality, than being normal weight (BMI 18.5-<25).   The authors also concluded that people who are up to 30 pounds overweight appear to have a lower risk of death than those who are within the normal BMI range for healthy weight. Many news articles or segments claimed that the study should come as a relief to those constantly struggling to lose weight because their extra pounds could actually be helping their health! Other sources have suggested that we need to re-organize our BMI ranges to reflect the study’s results, moving grade 1 obesity into a normal or healthy range. But our expert, HSPH’s Nutrition Department Chair, Dr. Walter Willett, explained that the study’s results are flawed and extremely misleading. In the following questions and responses, partially published by USAToday, Willett details the study’s weaknesses and provides advice to those who are overweight and possibly confused by these new findings. Read more about maintaining a healthy weight, what the BMI means, and explore ways to prevent obesity.

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