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'Obesity Paradox' Busted: Pudgy Diabetics Not Healthier

<p>Major study dispels controversial idea that a few extra pounds helps people get through sickness.</p>
Teenager giving herself insulin injection
Teenager giving herself insulin injectionReed Saxon / AP
/ Source: Associated Press

The "obesity paradox" — the controversial notion that being overweight might actually be healthier for some people with diabetes — seems to be a myth, researchers report. A major study finds there's no survival advantage to being large, and a disadvantage to being very large.

More than 24 million Americans have diabetes, mostly Type 2, the kind that is on the rise because of obesity. About two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight, including one-third who are obese.

Weighing too much increases the chances of heart disease, cancer and premature death. But some small studies have suggested this might not be true for everyone, and that Type 2 diabetics might even benefit from a few extra pounds — a "metabolic reserve" to help get them through sickness.

The new research — which looked at deaths according to how much people weighed when they were diagnosed with diabetes — dispels that idea.

"We didn't see this protective effect at all," said one study leader, Diedre Tobias of the Harvard School of Public Health. "The lowest risk was seen in the normal-weight category."

The National Institutes of Health and the American Diabetes Association paid for the work, which involved 11,427 female nurses and male health professionals diagnosed with diabetes. Results are in this week's New England Journal of Medicine.

"It's a very convincing study" and large enough to give a clear answer, said one independent expert, Dr. Patrick Remington, associate dean for public health at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

_The Associated Press