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The Flegal study was one of two in this week’s JAMA that concluded the impact of obesity on cardiovascular disease risk or overall mortality has decreased over time.

Edward W. Gregg, another CDC epidemiologist, authored a second study that examined trends in heart disease over a 40-year period.

“Certainly, obese people today have a lower risk for CVD [cardiovascular disease] than those in previous decades,” he said.

“Our findings tell people that if they pay attention to other risks for cardiovascular disease and do good things,” such as quitting smoking and lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, “they can have an impact, whether or not they are obese,” Mr. Gregg added.

• Marguerite Higgins contributed to this report