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Obesity can offer protection when a serious infection occurs

SUNDAY, May 27, 2018 – Obesity brings with it many health problems, but there could be a ray of light, according to new research.

If you are in the hospital with an infectious disease, you are half as likely to die if you are overweight or obese, Danish researchers report.

For the study, Sigrid Gribsholt, from the department of clinical epidemiology at the University Hospital of Aarhus, and colleagues collected data on more than 35,000 patients hospitalized for infections from 2011 to 2015.

Among these patients, the researchers analyzed whether the weight affected the risk of death in the three months after discharge.

The Gribsholt team found that for low-weight patients, the risk of dying was twice as high as for normal-weight patients. That seemed to be linked, however, to recent weight loss due to some underlying disease. Deaths did not increase for low-weight patients who had not lost weight recently.

The surprise finding was that overweight patients were 40 percent less likely to die and obese patients were 50 percent less likely to die, compared to normal-weight patients. 19659002] Among obese patients, if they had recent changes in weight, other medical conditions or if they smoked had little effect on the risk of dying, the findings showed.

"Overweight and obesity were associated with a substantially reduced 90-day mortality after the incident of hospital admission for infection," the researchers wrote.

The results of the study were presented on May 24 at the European Congress on Obesity in Vienna, Austria.

Similar findings emerged in three other studies also presented at the meeting:

  • In a study jointly conducted by researchers from the United States and Taiwan, a review of the medical records of nearly 1.7 million Americans hospitalized with pneumonia found that the chances of dying fell between 20 and 30 percent if the patient was overweight or obese.
  • A study conducted by the same team, using the same database, found that overweight or obese hospitalized patients were also approximately 22 percent to 23 percent less likely to die from sepsis of blood infection, in comparison with patients of normal weight.
  • A study conducted by Dutch researchers at the Erasmus MC, University Medical Center Rotterdam found that, in a group of 26 severely ill patients, the nine who were obese were less likely to suffer rapid muscle wasting compared to their weight peers normal.

But obesity expert Dr. Mitchell Roslin said the so-called "obesity paradox" – where a normally unhealthy weight seems to have some health benefit: "it has to stay in perspective."

Although excess weight may offer protection in some way in extreme circumstances, obesity is linked to a number of deadly diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and even some cancers. [19659002] "What is happening today is that the obesity epidemic is causing much more [ill health] than it protects," said Roslin, head of obesity surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

"Just because you are overweight does not mean you're not healthy," he said, but "if your obesity is severe, you're unlikely to be healthy."

The new findings were presented at a medical meeting and, as such, should be considered preliminary. until it is published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

For more information on obesity, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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