Being overweight has long been considered a risk factor for several health problems, including heart diseases, hypertension and diabetes, among others. However, in another example of the so-called “obesity paradox,” a new study has found that being overweight might actually help diabetics live longer than their normal and underweight counterparts.

“These results are exploratory and hypothesis-generating,” Pierluigi Costanzo from Britain’s Hull York Medical School and the lead researcher of the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, reportedly said. “Previous studies have shown conflicting results about this topic.”

For the purpose of this study, the researchers studied 10,568 patients with type-2 diabetes for an average of nearly 11 years. Overweight patients, with a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 25, had lower mortality than normal weight patients, that is, those with BMI between 18.5 and 24.9. However, obese patients, with a BMI greater than 30, had mortality risk similar to that of normal weight patients.

While a handful of studies in the past have examined this obesity paradox that shows overweight patients of chronic cardiovascular and renal diseases have a better chance of survival than their normal and underweight counterparts, it is not yet clear what gives them this advantage. In the case of type-2 diabetes, researchers have speculated that the disease might be especially lethal in normal and underweight patients.

“It's likely those diabetic patients with normal weight have a more aggressive form of type-2 diabetes compared to those who are overweight and obese,” lead researcher Costanzo reportedly said.

However, the findings of the study must not be seen as an excuse to pile on weight. While overweight patients might live longer, they are also more likely to be hospitalized with heart problems. 

“I am wary of telling people that if you are overweight you are going to live longer, or that it doesn't matter if you are overweight,” Spyros Mezitis, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, who wasn't involved in the study, reportedly said. “We need more studies to really understand what's going on here.”