London, Jan 24 (Agencies): Those fretting over weight gain can now relax as scientists have claimed that staying fat may be better for your health.

The researchers said the idea that weight is harmful has been "exaggerated" and people who are little heavier may actually live longer.

The California University (CU) study that looked at about 350,000 people in the US also suggested that the obese put their health in greater danger when they obsessively try to slim down.

It recommended that people should eat a varied and balanced diet, and take ‘enjoyable’ amount of exercise-even if they still end up carrying a few extra pounds.

The researchers also noted that society's obsession with dieting is "ineffective" and often leads to people becoming fatter as they crave food and binge.

Linda Bacon, a CU professor who led the study, said that although health professionals mean well when they suggest people lose weight, "our analysis indicates that researchers have long interpreted research data through a biased lens".

The researchers also claimed that there is evidence to show that overweight people live longer than normal. Those who are obese in old age also tend to live longer than elderly people who are thin, they said.

They are also more likely to survive certain health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and kidney failure, added the researchers.

Rather than obsessing with dieting, the researchers said, people would be in far better health if they learn to accept their bodies and took better care of themselves.

Besides eating a wide range of nutritious foods, they should also take regular exercise in sessions that they can enjoy and try to listen to their bodies' natural signals of being hungry and feeling full, advised the researchers who detailed their study in the Nutrition Journal.