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Obesity not quite associated with improved survival

A controversial body of research has suggested that obesity may be associated with an improved rate of survival in patients with cardiovascular disease. It has been suggested in the past that because obese individuals have an extra catabolic reserve, and many diseases result in the wasting away at the end of life, they could prolong survival. However, a new study from the New York University College of Global Health has found that this ‘obesity paradox’ is not present among those with new cases of cardiovascular disease. Previous studies often included patients with established cardiovascular disease, where disease related factors may have biased towards an observation of a paradox.

In this study, the researchers used data from a nationally representative set from the United States that contains surveys of more than 30,000 people. Looking at a variety of cardiovascular issues and weight change over time the researchers found a strong association with the ‘obesity paradox’; the risk of death was 18 to 36 percent lower for people with obesity compared to those of a normal weight. However, in those with new cardiovascular disease, this association was not seen. This conclusion suggests that studies which include individuals with established cardiovascular factors are likely to be biased by factors such as disease related weight loss. The authors are keen to highlight that the findings do not support re-evaluation of guidelines to account for the obesity paradox.

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