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Slim and fit is okay - researchers

Wednesday December 23rd, 2009

The dangers of being slim and fit have been exaggerated, researchers claimed today.

A new analysis claims to disprove theories that being too slim may damage the lungs.

Some research has linked being too slim to the development of lung cancer and respiratory disease.

Experts say this may deter people from losing weight for fear of "over-shooting".

But Professor George Davey Smith, of Bristol University, UK, says a study of more than one million parents and sons in Sweden suggests this is not a problem.

The analysis depends on treating weight levels as being shared in families - parents that eat heartily are likely to have children with the same tendency.

Professor Smith believes this can help answer the question about whether the link between low weight and lung disease is caused because the disease itself leads people to lose weight.

The latest study suggests that this is true - because there is no link between children being slim and the development of these diseases in their parents.

The research showed, however, a strong link between sons being overweight and the risk of their parents dying from heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Professor Davey Smith worked with the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, on the research, published today by the British Medical Journal, and based on measurements of body mass index, which is used to adjust weight for height.

The researchers write: "These conclusions have important implications for public health practice because they suggest that reducing population levels of overweight and obesity (or preventing their rise) will have a considerable benefit to population health.

"Suggestions to the contrary, which have received considerable media attention over recent years, are probably misguided."

But Ellen Mason, a senior cardiac nurse with the British Heart Foundation, said the findings should not be taken as an excuse for excessive slimming.

She said: "The best advice we can take from this study is to try to keep your own weight and that of your children within a normal body mass index.

"There are possible implications on health from being either overweight or underweight. Teaching our children how to be a healthy weight and physically active is the best Christmas present we can give them this year - as it will last a lifetime."

Davey Smith, G. et al. The association between body mass index and mortality using offspring BMI as an indicator of own BMI: large intergenerational mortality study. The British Medical Journal, 2009;339:b5043.

Tags: Cancer | Diet & Food | Europe | Fitness | General Health | Heart Health | Respiratory | UK News

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