Research: Obesity alone does not increase risk of death, but…..


Increased risk of death is not the old reason to lose weight in the obese.

Obesity Causes Disease

Many dieticians and medical providers have long listed increase risk of death, diabetes, and heart disease as a reason to lose weight.   It only makes sense that losing weight and exercising would help lower your risk of death due to this disease process.  Several recent studies have laid some doubt the belief that man medical providers have recommended to their patients for the past 20-30 years so had it?  

A recent article in Science Daily makes this claim.  The article, entitled “Obesity alone does not increase risk of death”[1], makes the claim that thousands of Americans have been wrongly suggested to lose weight.  The writers base this on the result of a single study that found that obese individuals that appear metabolically healthy have no signs of metabolic disease despite the fact that their obesity does not have a high risk of death than their average slim colleagues.  The problem is the writes have misinterpreted the results of this study and missed one part of the disease process of obesity.  

The article is based on the results of a study in the Journal of Clinical Obesity[2].  The study looked at almost 55,000 subjects and found that there was no significant difference in risk for those who were obese as long as they did not have a metabolic change associated with Diabetes type 2 or heart disease.  In other words, obesity, without metabolic abnormalities, was not be associated with higher risk for all‐cause mortality compared to lean healthy individuals.  Elevation of metabolic risks factor was associated with increased mortality risk.  The science daily article wrongly assumes this risk of death is the only reason to lose weight.  Obesity also increases the risk of osteoarthritis and disability and would thus decrease the quality of life with age.  

Lastly, the biggest problem with this study is that it is overgeneralized to the population as a whole.  I would agree that a large group may have less risk that medical providers suspected in the past.  The problems are that this population is very small compared to the majority of the population.  The writers even reported that “researchers found that 1 out of 20 individuals with obesity had no other metabolic abnormalities.”  Most patients will develop high blood pressure or a metabolic abnormality from their obesity.  This article may give false hope to many of the patients who would otherwise benefit from weight loss and exercise.  

The bottom line: Risk of death is not the only reason to lose weight.  Arthritis and disability are other reasons and might have more meaning to patients by reducing their long-term risk of impairment and increasing their quality of life.  More research is clearly needed, but this study show promise. 


“Obesity alone does not increase risk of death: New study could change the way we think about obesity and health,” ScienceDaily, 12-Jul-2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 17-Jul-2018]
J. L. Kuk, M. Rotondi, X. Sui, S. N. Blair, and C. I. Ardern, “Individuals with obesity but no other metabolic risk factors are not at significantly elevated all-cause mortality risk in men and women,” C, Jul. 2018 [Online]. Available: 10.1111/cob.12263″ target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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