Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

50+: Live Better, Longer

Font Size

Overweight Older People Live Longer

A Few Extra Pounds May Be a Plus in Old Age, Researchers Say
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 28, 2010 -- People who carry a few extra pounds after age 70 tend to live longer than people who don’t, new research finds.

Overweight older adults who took part in the Australian study had a clear survival advantage over those who were normal weight, underweight, or obese.

The findings suggest that the widely accepted body mass index (BMI) weight guidelines may not be particularly useful after age 70, lead researcher Leon Flicker, PhD, of the University of Western Australia tells WebMD.

He says elderly people who don’t have health conditions like diabetes or osteoarthritis, which are caused or exacerbated by carrying extra pounds, may be better off being overweight.

“Unless they have these conditions, there is not much reason to tell people in their 70s and beyond to lose weight if they are not obese,” he says.

Elderly Benefit From Extra Weight

The study is not the first to suggest that carrying some, but not too much, extra weight may increase longevity.

Last summer, researchers in Canada reported the same findings after analyzing data from more than 11,000 adults followed for more than a decade.

In that study, people who met the criteria for being overweight were 17% less likely to die compared to people of normal weight.

In the newly reported research, overweight study participants in their 70s followed for up to 10 years had a 13% lower risk of death than participants classified as normal weight.

BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s weight (in kilograms) by the square of their height (in meters). A body mass index of 18.5-24.9 is considered normal, a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.

Based on BMI scores, a 5-foot, 7-inch adult would be considered:

  • Underweight at less than 118 pounds (BMI <18.5),
  • Normal weight at 118 to 159 pounds (BMI = 18.5-24.9)
  • Overweight at 160 to 191 pounds (BMI = 25-29.9)
  • Obese at 192 pounds or more (BMI = 30+)

Obese and normal-weight study participants had a similar risk of death over the 10 years of follow-up. Underweight study participants had the highest risk of death, even after the researchers adjusted for the wasting effects of disease.

Today on WebMD

Eating for a longer, healthier life.
woman biking
How to stay vital in your 50s and beyond.
womans finger tied with string
Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
man reviewing building plans
Do you know how to stay healthy as you age?
fast healthy snack ideas
how healthy is your mouth
dog on couch
doctor holding syringe
champagne toast
Two women wearing white leotards back to back
Man feeding woman
two senior women laughing