Obesity Associated with Premature Death

Reuters - Monday, January 6, 2003

Study Charts Link Between Obesity, Premature Death

Being overweight doesn't only increase the threat of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, it can actually rob years from your life, according to a new study released on Monday.

Dutch researchers, examining the medical records of 3,457 U.S. adults who were middle-aged in 1950 found that obesity may shorten life expectancy by a magnitude similar to smoking among people who became obese by the age of 40. Women who were obese at 40 lost 7.1 years of life, while obese men lost 5.8 years, compared with normal-weight people. A person is obese when he or she weighs over 20 percent more than maximum
healthy body weight.

Study results were worst for obese people who smoked, with obese male
smokers losing 13.7 years of life and obese female smokers 13.3 years,
compared with normal-weight nonsmokers. But even nonsmokers who were simply overweight, and not obese, by the age of 40, lived lives that were shorter -- by 3.3 years for women and by 3.1 years for men.

The smoking epidemic in the western world is waning. However, a new fear should be the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity in young
adults, which heralds another potentially preventable public health
disaster, the study's authors warned.

The study, which appeared in the American College of Physicians' Annals of
Internal Medicine, surfaces at a time when an increasing number of
Americans face weight problems. Recent studies have shown that up to 64 percent of U.S. adults were overweight and 31 percent obese in 2000, up from 56 percent overweight and 23 percent obese a decade earlier.

The latest study, conducted by researchers from Rotterdam's Erasmus Medical Center and the University of Groningen, was based on the Framingham Heart Study, which provides health information on residents of Framingham, Massachusetts, dating back to 1948. The research was financed by grants from the Netherlands Heart Foundation and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.



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