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We all come in various shapes and sizes. And being comfortable in your own skin is important. But from a health perspective how much does your size really matter when it comes to how long you’ll live? The answer is…
No one really seems to be quite sure.
The “obesity paradox” is a phenomenon that considers this question and its implications. This term identifies a medical hypothesis based on an idea that obesity may, counterintuitively, be protective and associated with greater survival in certain groups of people, according to the definition at Wikipedia.
It also surmises that normal to low body mass index or normal cholesterol values may be associated with a higher mortality rate.
That’s very interesting considering the war on weight, and definitely warrants consideration following new findings that seem to add credibility to the theory.
“The obesity paradox baffles scientists across numerous disciplines,” said Min-Hao Kuo, MSU biochemist and molecular biologist who published a study in the current issue of PLoS Genetics. “But when it comes to yeast, which is an excellent model for the studies of human aging, increasing the cellular content of triacylglycerol (TAG), or fat, extends the lifespan.”
In plainer English, what this recent research has found is that cells with higher fat content outlive lean cells. If this is the case, are those with a little more meat on their bones healthier than the mindlessly slim?
It’s hard to say without more in-depth studies. The researchers involved in this most recent study aren’t sure of the exact mechanism behind TAG, the fat in the long-lived yeast cells that influences longer lifespans.
“Our team used genetic approaches to manipulate the cellular capacity of triacylglycerol reproduction and degradation,” Kuo said. “Via sophisticated analyses, we demonstrated that it preserves life through a mechanism that is largely independent of other lifespan regulation pathways common in yeast as well as humans.”
Another technique at the opposite end of the spectrum known as calorie restriction (CR) has also been shown to extend the life span of many different species, including mammals. In fact, over 70 years of research shows that people who reduce the calories they eat by just 20 percent for two to six years lose body fat and unleash many anti-aging mechanisms in the body.
The history of caloric restriction goes back to 1934, when researchers at Cornell University observed that rats fed a diet that was severely reduced in calories (while maintaining micronutrient levels) resulted in life spans that were up to twice as long as normally expected.
It’s a paradox to say the least, but both schools of thought seem to indicate that somewhere between obese and thin, we may find the perfect weight for keeping us healthier and living longer.