Colombian twins Juan Manuel and John Anderson Giraldo are weighed in a nutritionist office on September 22, 2011 in Medellin, Antioquia department, Colombia. The twins are 18 months old and weigh 16 kilos, while their ideal weight should be 11 kilos. The latest results from the Colombian National Health and Nutrition Situation reveal that infant obesity is on the rise, with one in six children between the ages of 5 to 17 considered to be overweight or obese.
Credit: Raul Arboleda

Maybe you don’t need that New Year’s diet after all.

A study published Jan. 1 in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. found that a few extra pounds may increase a person’s lifespan, CBS News reported.

In an analysis of almost 100 studies that included about 3 million adults, Katherine Flegal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and her research team found that overweight people were 6 percent less likely to die an early death than normal-weight individuals, and people with grade 1 obesity were 5 percent less likely to die prematurely than normal-weight people, the Associated Press reported.

Grade 1 obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 to less than 35, CBS News reported.

All obese groups combined – people with a BMI of 30 and higher – were 18 percent more likely to die prematurely than normal-weight people, CBS News reported.

In an essay in the same issue of the journal, Dr. Steven B. Heymsfield and Dr. William T. Cefalu of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., suggested that a few extra pounds of fat might give people energy reserves that help them recover from some illnesses and some types of traumatic injuries, CBS News reported.

But others have reacted to the report’s findings with scorn, the AP reported.

Dr. Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health told the AP that "this is an even greater pile of rubbish" than Flegal’s 2005 study that found thin and normal-weight people had a slightly greater risk of death than overweight people.

There were underweight people in Flegal’s study, critics noted, according to the AP. "Some portion of those thin people are actually sick, and sick people tend to die sooner," Donald Berry, a biostatistician at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, told the AP.

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