People who are overweight by age 40 are likely to reduce life expectancy by three years compared to those who are slim. Thus, being obese during middle age is similar to the same life expectancy reduction compared to smoking. This is according to a study published by Dutch researchers in of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Nonsmokers who were overweight, but not obese, lost an average of three years off their lives. Those who were obese died even sooner. Obese female nonsmokers lost an average 7.1 years, while men lost 5.8 years. Although similar studies have shown the same trends and it has been widely know among scientists, few large-scale studies have been able to pinpoint how many years are lost due to obesity.
The tragedy is that even if you are overweight in your mid 30s to 40s and then, lose the weight, you still have a higher risk of death. Consequently, if you want to reduce this risk, you must work early on your weight to maintain a healthier lifestyle because if you wait a long time, the damage may have already been done.
The results of the study showed that for smokers, the results were even worse. Obese female smokers died 7.2 years sooner than normal-weight smokers, and 13.3 years sooner than normal-weight nonsmoking women. Obese male smokers lived 6.7 years less than slim smokers, and 13.7 years less than normal-weight nonsmokers.
The results were gathered and analyzed by researchers at Erasmus Medical Center and the University of Gronigen in the Netherlands from vital statistics of 3,457 volunteers in Framingham, MA.
Obesity is defined as having a body-mass index of 30 or above. The index is a measure of weight relative to height. Healthy weight in relation to BMI is considered less than 25.
About 66% of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Studies have also shown that people are becoming obese at a younger age. This corresponds to a rise in sugar intake per capita since 1930. Although this has not been proven, the trend in obesity follows the trend in the U.S. in sugar consumption during the last 70 years. In 1930, the average per capita sugar consumption was 20 pounds; it is now 150 pounds and climbing.
Thus, while smoking is on the decline, sugar consumption and increasing obesity of the population, especially in young adults, creates a new fear, which heralds another potentially preventable public health disaster.