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Underweight People at Greatest Risk for Post-Surgery Death

When we talk about healthy eating and dieting, our focuses is almost entirely on people who are overweight. Obesity-related diseases account for just about 10 percent of medical costs in the United States, which comes to an estimated $147 billion each year.

That said, according to recently released research, people who are underweight are 40 percent more likely to die in the first month after surgery than those who are overweight.

The researchers believe that a patient’s body mass index (BMI) can be used as a predictor for risk in recovery time after surgery. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines those who have a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 as normal weight, so anything below that range fits in the underweight category.

Previous studies showed mixed results, but since the new study examined nearly 190,000 patients undergoing various surgical procedures at 183 hospitals, it’s expansive enough to be taken seriously.

“We found patients in the lowest quintile had a 40 percent higher odds of death compared to the mid-range,” said researcher George Stukenborg of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

The researchers aren’t sure why this is so, but postulate that people who were underweight were sick to begin with. Either way, they say that doctors should use BMI as a consideration when they plan surgeries.

December 1st, 2011

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