Wednesday, 18 March 2009

How being obese can take years off your life

A new study of almost one million people from around the world - part-funded by the British Heart Foundation - has shown that obesity can trim years off a person's life expectancy.

The study found that moderate obesity, which is now common, reduces life expectancy by about 3 years, and that severe obesity, which is still uncommon, can shorten a person’s life by 10 years.

This 10 year loss is equal to the effects of lifelong smoking.

The study brought together data from 57 long-term research studies mostly based in Europe or North America. People were followed for an average of 10 to 15 years, during which 100,000 died, making it the largest ever investigation of how obesity affects mortality.

The studies used body mass index (BMI) to assess obesity. Though not perfect, BMI is useful for assessing the extent to which fatty tissue causes ill health.

Obesity increases death rates for some types of cancer and increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Amongst middle-aged people in the UK, as many as one in four deaths from heart attack or stroke and one in 16 cancer deaths are due to being overweight or obese.

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