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      A few extra pounds...may be GOOD for you?

      Medical studies seem to contradict each other on a regular basis.

      But a new study out of the seems to buck what the health and fitness industries have been telling us for years...that being overweight is nearly as bad as smoking when it comes to overall health and death rates.

      But the new study, led by Katherine Flegal, a distinguished epidemiologist from the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Maryland, those few extra pounds you might be carrying could actually be good for you. That is...if you think not kicking the bucket prematurely is a good thing.

      After one of the largest reviews of research ever conducted, doctors say that carrying a few extra pounds may actually reduce the risk of premature death.

      According to the study, mild obesity (those with a BMI between 30 and 34.9) brings a 5 per cent lower premature death rate, according to the study. Although this was not statistically significant, it suggests there is no increased risk of premature death attached to that weight range.

      It is the second time that research studies led Flegal have studied the link between obesity and mortality.

      In 2007 the same group caused consternation among public health professionals when they published the results of a similar analysis that also showed being fat does not shorten life.

      Dr. Flegal told The Independent she had decided to conduct a second, larger, study on the same theme to counter the skeptics. She and her team examined results from 100 studies from around the world, involving three million people and 270,000 deaths.

      The results are published in the respected Journal of the American Medical Association, which also published the earlier study. They show only the severely obese, with a body mass index above 35, have a significantly increased mortality, up by 29 per cent. Otherwise, extra weight appears to be protective.

      So do extra-skinny people reap any added health benefits?

      According to the earlier study...they don't.

      It shows that underweight people have a 10 per cent higher rate of premature death than those of normal size, according to the earlier research.

      "There is already a lot of literature showing that overweight is linked with lower mortality," said Dr Flegal. "It is not an unusual finding. But authors tend to shy away from it. They tend to underplay it or try to explain it away."

      Being a few pounds overweight reduces your chance for premature death??? Too good to be true?