Optimal body weight for health and longevity: bridging basic, clinical, and population research

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Abstract

Excess body weight and adiposity cause insulin resistance, inflammation, and numerous other alterations in metabolic and hormonal factors that promote atherosclerosis, tumorigenesis, neurodegeneration, and aging. Studies in both animals and humans have demonstrated a beneficial role of dietary restriction and leanness in promoting health and longevity. Epidemiological studies have found strong direct associations between increasing body mass index (BMI) and risks of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and several types of cancer, beginning from BMI of 20–21 kg m−2. Although a recent meta-analysis suggests that overweight individuals have significantly lower overall mortality than normal-weight individuals, these data are likely to be an artifact produced by serious methodological problems, especially confounding by smoking, reverse causation due to existing chronic disease, and nonspecific loss of lean mass and function in the frail elderly. From a clinical and public health point of view, maintaining a healthy weight through diet and physical activity should remain the cornerstone in the prevention of chronic diseases and the promotion of healthy aging.

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