Overweight Men Have a Greater Risk of Dying Prematurely Than Women

A survey of global trends found obesity was now second only to smoking as a cause of premature death in Europe. A study of almost 4 million people from 32 countries showed that being overweight (as well as being underweight) increases the risk of dying early, compared to people with a healthy weight. This is usually defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of between 18.5 and 24.9. 

The study was designed to calculate the impact of BMI on chances of death in four geographical regions, free from the effects of confounding factors such as smoking or existing chronic disease. 

Researchers calculated that, in Europe, 1 in 7 (14%) premature deaths could be prevented if people were a healthy weight, rather than overweight or obese. Men who were overweight were more likely to die early than women who were overweight. 

The study does not prove that obesity causes early death, only that people who are overweight or obese are more likely to die earlier. Other factors such as diet, exercise, socioeconomic status and ethnicity may have an effect on people's individual risk, as well as their BMI.  

That said, it does cast doubt on previous claims that it is possible to be "fat and fit", while also adding to evidence that a healthy weight plays an important role in the chances of living a long and healthy life.