Not all people with extra chub are doomed to a shorter lifespan, new research suggests.
A new study, published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, shows that obese people with only minor health problems -- like high blood pressure or diabetes -- live just as long as their slim counterparts.
"Our study challenges the idea that all obese individuals need to lose weight," study researcher Dr. Jennifer Kuk, an assistant professor in the School of Kinesiology & Health Science at York University, told CNN.
Researchers looked at 6,000 Americans who are obese over a 16-year time span, and compared their risk of death with non-obese people. They found that relatively healthy people with a higher body weight in young adulthood had a similar death risk to their slimmer counterparts, though these people also reported eating healthy food and exercising regularly.
Another study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, looked at the health of 8,000 people in the National Health and Human Nutrition Examination Surveys, showed that a ranking system called the Edmonton Obesity Staging System could be more effective at analyzing health than the BMI system commonly used. BMI, which stands for body mass index, is a ratio of weight to height, where someone with a BMI of 30 or above is considered obese.
But with the Edmonton Obesity Staging System, a person can be obese, and still be considered a "stage zero," which means the person has no health risks, The Vancouver Sun reported. The system is more accurate in predicting how likely someone is to die in a 20-year period than the BMI system is.
According to this system, a person who is in "stage one" might be on the brink of high blood pressure, while "stage two" is when a person has diabetes, sleep apnea and hypertension, according to The Vancouver Sun. "Stage three" is when a person has complications and organ damage (like heart failure), and "stage four" is when the person is suffering severe -- potentially life threatening -- disability from chronic diseases.
BMI "only measures how big the patient is, not how sick the patient is," study researcher Dr. Arya Sharma, who worked on both studies, told The Vancouver Sun.
However, CNN noted, living many years doesn't mean those years will be of high quality -- and people who are obese, even though they may be able to live as long as people of normal weight may have other social problems.
In addition, a young person who is obese may still need to lose weight to prevent further health problems down the road, CNN reported.
On the other hand, research has also shown that being thin doesn't mean you're healthy. Dr. Oz Garcia, Ph.D., recently wrote about his experiences with patients who, while slim, had conditions like Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol because they exercise frequently or eat healthily.
And a new study, published earlier this year, of 75,000 people showed that skinny people with a specific gene variant are at a higher risk for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, TIME reported.