Those extra pounds could work wonders on your mental well-being, a new study has found. Researchers from the Helmholtz Zentrum in Munich, Germany, have determined that weight gain may actually improve an individual’s psychological quality of life. The perks, however, usually come at the expense of physical health.
Originally conceived as an inquiry into the physical deterioration attending excess weight and obesity, the research effort tracked the body-mass index (BMI) of 3,000 people over a period of seven years. The scientists also assessed the subjects’ health-related quality of life using a standard questionnaire. Reviewing the results, they discovered that some test subjects’ perceived quality of living seemed to improve as their weight increased. The somewhat counterintuitive effect was particularly clear in female subjects who were already overweight when they enrolled in the study.
“The results show that the influence of body weight on physical and mental health is complex,” the researchers wrote in a press release.
According to Helmholtz Zentrum professor and study author Rolf Holle, the findings may inspire the development of more effective prevention strategies in the struggle against obesity. Successful weight loss methods may need to consider both the physical and mental health of the subject. The best approach might not be the one that lists the vices of excess weight, but the one that illuminates a middle ground.
“The understanding of these associations is crucial for developing medically effective and cost-effective strategies to prevent and manage obesity,” Holle said, speaking to PsychCentral. “The challenge is to prevent weight gain and its harmful health consequences, such as diabetes, while simultaneously structuring the programs in such a way that they counteract impairments in mental well-being.”
Given the pronounced effect in female subjects, the team also noted that health officials should entertain gender-specific approaches.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity currently affects 30 percent of U.S. adults, and is associated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. The agency estimates that the annual cost of the epidemic is $147 billion. To learn more about the condition and how to prevent it, visit the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) online database.