(CBS) Can fat people be healthy? A provocative new study shows that obese people who are otherwise healthy live just as long as their slim counterparts.
And that wasn't the only surprising finding. The study also showed otherwise healthy obese people are even less likely than lean people to die of cardiovascular disease.
"Our findings challenge the idea that all obese individuals need to lose weight," study author Dr. Jennifer L. Kuk, assistant professor at York University School of Kinesiology & Health Science, said in a written statement. "Moreover, it's possible that trying - and failing - to lose weight may be more detrimental than simply staying at an elevated body weight and engaging in a healthy lifestyle that includes physical activity and a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables."
For the study - published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism - researchers compared the death rate of 6,000 obese Americans over a 16-year span to the death rate of lean individuals. The researcher found that the mortality rate of fat people who had no or only minor obesity-related health problems (such as high blood pressure or diabetes) was no higher than that of lean people.
Dr. Kuk told CBS News that she hoped the study would help dispel some common misconceptions about the link between body weight and health.
"I think this is a common notion, that if you are overweight you are unhealthy and that if you are skinny you are healthy," she told CBS News. "What people need to realize is that normal-weight people can have diabetes, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular problems."