Fat people are no more likely to develop health problems or die early than their slimmer peers.

That's the conclusion of a new study from researchers at the University of Manitoba, which says the province's healthcare system will not likely be overwhelmed by the demand for services related to obesity.

Researchers used weight information from two decades of national health surveys and found one in four Manitobans is obese, but also found the impact on the healthcare system from obese and overweight people may not be as significant as expected.

The study used people's weight and height from nationally-administered health surveys from 1989 to 2008 to get their Body Mass Index (BMI).

People with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 are in the overweight group and those with a BMI of 30 or greater are in the obese group.

While those in the obese group used more health services than average, the difference was quite small, and only came into play at the high end of the BMI scale (35 and higher).

"These are the most unique findings from this report, and are important because they imply that the healthcare system will not be swamped by demands driven by obesity," said Dr. Randy Fransoo, lead researcher in the study.

"One of the biggest surprises we found was that people in the overweight group did not have a huge increase in health problems or premature death."

He said the result was surprising given that health issues such as  heart disease and diabetes are associated with obesity.

Not surprisingly, the study found those who spend more time sitting during the week are more likely to be obese.

Being sedentary for more than 30 hours a week was associated with a greater risk of obesity, even for people who were otherwise active, the study found.

With files from The Canadian Press