Recent studies suggesting that heavier people with diabetes have lower death rates than normal weight patients may be a myth.
A strong body of research shows that being overweight or obese puts people at risk for chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, cancer and even early death. But several small studies connecting obesity to a protective effect against type 2 diabetes-related death have raised questions about a possible ‘obesity paradox,’ and whether weight can be a benefit in preventing progression of the disease. A 2012 study published in the journal JAMA, for example, studied 2,625 people recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, of which only 12% were normal weight. But the larger people with diabetes lived longer than their thinner peers.
Why the heavier people lived longer wasn’t clear; the researchers speculated that genetics, or the type of fat that certain obese people accumulated compared to normal weight individuals could be responsible.
But in a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, scientists say that’s unlikely. “We didn’t see this protective effect at all,” the study’s leader, Diedre Tobias of the Harvard School of Public Health, told the Associated Press. “The lowest risk was seen in the normal-weight category.”