Middle-aged people who put on weight live longer than those who remain in healthy shape throughout their lives, according to a new study.
Scientists say that while people who remain obese from childhood into adulthood were most at risk of dying, modest weight gains throughout a lifespan can increase the “probability of survival”.
Experts said individuals who put on weight in later life often lived longer than those who remained trim. The findings were made following a study based on two generations of Americans followed over nearly seven decades.
Obesity campaigners cautioned the results should not be seen as a green light to “let yourself go” when reaching middle-age but added there was evidence gaining weight can be useful in protecting against fatal diseases.
Prof Hui Zheng, a sociologist at The Ohio State University, said: “The main message is for those who start at a normal weight in early adulthood, gaining a modest amount of weight throughout life and entering the overweight category in later adulthood can actually increase the probability of survival.”
Prof Zheng and colleagues analysed 8,329 participants in the Framingham Heart Study – 4,576 parents and 3,753 of their children.
Residents of the Massachusetts town have been tracked since 1948. The parents were followed until 2010 and the children from 1971 until 2014.