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'Obesity paradox': Extra weight linked to better outcomes for septic shock, asthma exacerbation

Although obesity is linked to a variety of health risks, new research indicates that obese patients may have an advantage over nonobese patients in certain health situations, including septic shock and acute asthma exacerbation.

In two separate studies presented at CHEST 2012, the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians, researchers compared outcomes in obese (BMI >30) vs nonobese patients with either septic shock or acute asthma exacerbation. Results showed that, although obese patients with asthma are more at risk for asthma exacerbations, near fatal exacerbations were more prevalent in nonobese patients.

Likewise, obese patients with septic shock had decreased mortality compared with nonobese patients. Researchers attribute this "obesity paradox" partly to a blunted pro-inflammatory cytokine response in obese patients.

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