There's one thing most people say, and that's to stay in shape, because keeping the pounds off is a good thing for your health. And then there's this study from an epidemiologist named Katherine Flegal at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control And Prevention, claiming that, actually, that may not necessarily be the case.
In fact, she finds, being overweight might actually protect your body against death. As Quartz reports, "Flegal found the lowest mortality rates among people in the overweight to mildly obese categories."
But death isn't the only disease Flegal surmises that being overweight helps combat:
Being overweight is now believed to help protect patients with an increasingly long list of medical problems, including pneumonia, burns, stroke, cancer, hypertension, and heart disease.
Flegal's been blasted by a number of critics, and not in particularly nice ways; one Harvard epidemiologist, Walter Willett, called Flegal's study a "pile of rubbish" back in 2013, Nature reports.
But Flegal (and other researchers) have been hard at work confirming the validity of this "obesity paradox," and, as Quartz writes, it's becoming a legitimately accepted scientific phenomenon. "Willett’s complaints are starting to look less credible, however, because no one has been able to make the paradox go away," they write.
There's a number of theories to explain the paradox—some believe overweight people receive better medical treatment, others think the extremely ill are lumped in with physically fit peoplei in studies—but nothing here is definite.
Maybe don't feel too guilty about the three bags of sea salt and vinegar chips you ate at work today.
Michael Rosen is a reporter for Fusion based out of Oakland.