Food for thought: A few extra pounds can prolong life

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A pair of new studies analyzes the effects of food on longevity and aging. While one finds that healthy eating helps to extend life, another finds that having a few extra pounds is not a bad idea either.

First on the menu, researchers at Queens College of the City University of New York provided some concrete proof that eating well helps you live longer. They looked at the dietary habits and other information of more than 350,000 older adults, and compared what they found to the 2005 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans to see if there was any correlation between good eating and early dying. As it turns out, the old advice is true: Over a 10-year follow-up, those who ate healthy were between 20% and 25% less likely to die than those whose diets were less than adequate.  

Meanwhile, a study from Portland State University also offers another finding: Being overweight actually increases your likelihood of living longer. Using the Body Mass Index scale, researchers compared the likelihood of death among underweight, overweight and obese people compared to normal weight people over the course of 12 years. While underweight and obese people were at an increased risk of death—70% and 36% greater, respectively—people with only a few extra pounds were 17% less likely to die. While researchers suggest it's possible that the extra weight can help seniors as their health declines in old age, they don't recommend packing on the pounds, and maintain that a healthy lifestyle is still the best way to grow old.

The Queens College study appears in the July issue of the journal Nutrition, while the Portland State study appears online in the June 18 edition of the journal Obesity.
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