Health Impact of Body Mass Index May Be Misleading

Study suggests adverse effect of low body mass index may be overstated
By Jane Parry
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 23 (HealthDay News) -- The adverse impact of low body mass index (BMI) on risk of respiratory disease and lung cancer mortality may be overstated, while the negative impact of high BMI on cardiovascular disease mortality may be underestimated, according to a study published online Dec. 22 in BMJ.

George Davey Smith, Ph.D., of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, and colleagues analyzed data on 1,018,012 mother-son pairs, using the child's BMI as an indicator of parental BMI to overcome the effect of reverse causality and confounding that may skew the findings of studies that look at the relationship between BMI and disease and mortality risk.

In common with the findings of previous studies, the researchers observed a strong association between offspring BMI and parental mortality attributable to diabetes, coronary heart disease and kidney cancer. However, the inverse association between BMI and risk of respiratory disease and lung cancer mortality was not demonstrated in this study.

"Our findings suggest that the apparent adverse consequences of low BMI on respiratory disease and lung cancer mortality may be overstated, whereas the adverse consequences of higher BMI on cardiovascular disease mortality may be substantially underestimated," the authors write. "These conclusions have important implications for public health practice because they suggest that reducing population levels of overweight and obesity (or preventing their rise) will have a considerable benefit to population health."

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