Danish study finds surprising change in BMI with lowest mortality risk- higher than in the past

Danish study finds surprising change in BMI with lowest mortality risk- higher than in the past

The New York Times published “Heavier People Don’t Die Young” on the 11th, 2016. This article reports on a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Change in Body Mass Index Associated with Lowest Mortality in Denmark, 1976-2013,” on May 10, 2016. The JAMA summary is dense and based on statistics, and is challenging to read. The NYT summary is much more accessible, but the title is a bit misleading and should be something more like, “Don’t Panic If Your BMI Is 27.” The Danish study compared data from three time periods, focusing on correlations between BMI and mortality for more than 120,000 people. The earliest data, from the ’70s, found that the lowest mortality was associated with a BMI of about 23. The second set of data, from the ’90s, found an increase in that BMI to about 24, but, surprisingly, the most recent data, from 2003 two 2013, found that BMI with the lowest association of  “all-cause mortality” to be 27.

The Danish senior author of the study hypothesized that this change may be due to better treatment of cardiovascular risk factors, but, as is typical for science, “more research is needed” and “the results may not be generalizable to other groups.” The New York Times author notes, “In any case, this does not mean that a person of normal weight should aim to gain weight.” The Danish scientist is quoted, “If you are 27, then maybe you don’t need to worry as much as he did.” He goes on to say, “but that doesn’t mean ‘now I can be as much as I want.’”

MHconcierge’s take: it is challenging to keep up with the evolving research findings with implications for healthcare psychology. People with mildly elevated BMIs do not need to worry perhaps as much as they have in the past-but it still is advisable to work with them to try to improve their health by losing weight.

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