Fascinating new results indicate that "overweight" people live longer than others.

About two years ago, a group of federal researchers reported that overweight people have a lower death rate than people who are normal weight, underweight or obese. Now, investigating further, they found out which diseases are more likely to lead to death in each weight group.

Linking, for the first time, causes of death to specific weights, they report that overweight people have a lower death rate because they are much less likely to die from a grab bag of diseases that includes Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, infections and lung disease. And that lower risk is not counteracted by increased risks of dying from any other disease, including cancer, diabetes or heart disease.

As a consequence, the group from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute reports, there were more than 100,000 fewer deaths among the overweight in 2004, the most recent year for which data were available, than would have expected if those people had been of normal weight.

Of course, the definition of "overweight" may be suspect, since it's based on the Body Mass Index which classifies muscular people as "overweight".

Researchers generally divide weight into four categories — normal, underweight, overweight and obese — based on the body mass index, which is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. A woman who is 5 foot 4, for instance, would be considered at normal weight at 130, underweight at 107 pounds, overweight at 150 pounds and obese at 180.

There's no information in the article as to whether or not the researchers attempted to differentiate between overweight people with excess fat and overweight people with lots of muscle. Is the latter category significantly large to affect the statistics? I've got no idea.

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