A new study, this time looking at breast cancer, found the same thing that several previous studies have revealed:
it’s better to be overweight than underweight.
The latest study, published in JAMA Oncology on June 21, 2018, found that a higher BMI was associated with lowered breast cancer rates. Especially if the BMI was higher in early adulthood, there was a reduced risk of premenopausal breast cancer.
Researchers collected data from over 750,000 premenopausal women throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.
Looking at the BMI of women ages 18 to 54 years old and following their subsequent breast cancer diagnosis, researchers found:
- The highest BMI group had over 4 times lower rates of breast cancer than the lowest BMI group.
- This inverse relationship between higher BMI resulting in significantly lowered breast cancer rates was particularly strong for hormone receptor positive breast cancers.
- Young women (ages 18 to 24) who were obese (BMI greater than or equal to 35) developed breast cancer 4.2 times less often than women who were underweight (BMI lower than 17.)
The Bottom Line:
Young women (ages 18 to 24) who were underweight went on to develop premenopausal breast cancer over 4 X more frequently than women who were obese.
This study was very large — almost one million patients — and was a rigorously analyzed. Considering breast cancer is the most common worldwide cancer diagnosis for women, particularly young women, this is very important news indeed.
Researchers estimate that every 5 unit increase BMI (an approximately 22 lbs increase) decreased cancer rates by about 23%… so about 1 percentage lower risk for every pound.
Paradoxically, postmenopausal breast cancer rates go up with higher BMI, although in light of this new study we need to confirm this with larger scale studies on post menopausal breast cancer rates, like the size that this one was.
This study wasn’t the first to show an advantage to increased BMI in association with cancer, as I have previously blogged about.
Published Oct 2016 in the Journal Of Clinical Oncology, researchers examined body mass (BMI) and metastatic renal (kidney) cancer survival rates.
They found that obesity actually predicted improved survival in metastatic cancer… improving both the progression free survival rate and the over all survival rate!
- Researchers looked at over 1,900 patients from the International Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma Database Consortium and another 4,600 + patients from kidney cancer clinical trials over a ten year period… from 2003 to 2013. That’s over 6,500 patients total.
- Patients in the higher BMI category (above 25) survived approximately 38% longer and had longer remissions than those with lower BMIs (below 25.)
- Surviving almost 40% longer, especially with metastatic cancer, is a very big deal. Stage 4 (metastatic) renal cancer carries a 5 year survival rate of only 8%. Extending survival by up to 40% is more than any single chemotheraputic agent has ever been able to do with this disease.
The Bottom Line:
Higher BMI patients have markedly better survival rates for metastatic renal cancer than lower BMI patients.
The fact that obese patients have better outcomes in metastatic cancer is a real thing — this study had large patient numbers, was reproducible in different cohorts, and is statistically significant.
The numbers are so large and so significant that now physicians are encouraged to take the patient’s weight into account before sharing information on prognosis with their patients.
Of course, anything that shows there is a WIDE diversity to what is considered a “healthy weight” is totally hidden by the media. That makes sense, as the weight loss industry is a 20 BILLION dollar industry IN THE UNITED STATES ALONE!!!
So, of course the media wouldn’t want you to actually feel good about your current weight or feel there was any advantage in the slightest to having a higher BMI.
But as I previously blogged about several years ago, an important medical study revealed that mildly obese patients have yet another survival advantage…
…surviving lift threatening infections.
Published in August 2014 in Critical Care Medicine, researchers looked at the data of over 1,400 elderly people hospitalized with severe sepsis (requiring ICU care) and compared their body mass index (BMI) with clinical outcomes 1 year after discharge.
The results revealed a 25% improved mortality rate in severely obese, obese and overweight patients compared to normal weight patients… proving that heavier weight allows the body to survive overwhelming bacterial infections, even at advanced age.
The bottom line:
Obesity seems to have a survival advantage in sepsis, cancer prevention, and even in metastatic cancer.
Researchers further acknowledge that “small excess amounts of adipose tissue may provide needed energy reserves during acute catabolic illnesses, have beneficial mechanical effects with some types of traumatic injuries, and convey other salutary effects that need to be investigated.”
Effects like surviving cancer, surviving infections… and surviving in general.
Because here is another medical study you are unlikely to have heard about (unless you follow my blog, because I reported this to you as well, years ago!) but it is true:
Published January 2, 2013 in JAMA:
After looking at data on almost 3 MILLION people, researchers found that if you are overweight you actually have LESS over all risk for dying then someone in the “normal” weight category.
And even if you are mildly obese, up to BMI of 35, you have a death rate that is exactly the same as people in the “ideal weight” category (check out the chart below to figure out where you fall.) Only severe obesity was associated with an increased risk for death.
This study was a meta-analysis of 97 different published studies that included more than 2.88 million participants.
Compared to ideal weight individuals, overweight individuals had LOWER mortality rates than ideal weight participants, and those with Grade 1 obesity had no increased risk (having roughly identical death rates as the ideal weight participants.)
Only participants who had a BMI of 35 kg/m2 or HIGHER (significantly into the pink zone on the chart below) had significantly higher mortality rates:
— BMI Chart created by Vertex42.com. Used with permission.
So… if losing those last 10 pounds isn’t actually going to help you live longer… what defines your â€œideal weightâ€?
What defines your ideal weight is how you *feel* wearing the body you wear each day… your energy level, your flexibility, your capacity to get around, your mood, your ability to connect meaningfully with others, your ability to enjoy the things you want to enjoy each day.
When you are in balance energetically your body will choose the weight range that is ideal for you, so purposefully trying to gain weight into the overweight range or lose weight into the underweight range doesn’t support your energetic health best, unless this range is your natural balance.
The take home message here is that if you are told you are overweight, this does not mean you should be focusing on losing weight.
The real focus should ALWAYS BE on feeling as healthy and vibrant as possible.
This means focusing on muscle tone.
On heart strength.
On lung capacity.
On bone mass.
On energy levels.
On restorative sleep at night.
On quality time with loved ones.
On meaningful relationships.
On spiritual strength.
The only patients that should even be at all *thinking* about losing weight are patients with a Body Mass Index of over 35 kg/m2 or higher — those are folks significantly in the pink zone in the above chart.
And even if you are at 35 BMI or higher?
Focusing on energy levels, bone mass, restorative sleep and such will create a path of natural weight loss anyway.
So my recommendation is NO ONE should be focusing on weight, only on health. And now you have the science to back that up.
Feel better? Good!
This is my entire goal and the reason I do what I do.
I want every single person who crosses my path to feel BETTER after working with me then they did before.
Whether it is just reading the thousands of free holistic healing articles on my website, whether it is getting my free newsletter in your inbox (just sign up right here!) whether you have taken an on-line health class with me, or whether you’ve used some of my favorite holistic healing tools… a sense of relief, a sense of life unfolding how it was meant to unfold, a sense of purpose… these are your divine rights as a human being and it is my mission to help give you validity to reach for this through your physical health, every single day.
Here for you in the journey!
xoxoxo, Laura Koniver MD