People who struggle with obesity may risk dying prematurely

July 15, 2016 Providence Health Team

Overweight or obese men are more likely to die prematurely than overweight women, according to a new study. But both overweight men and women are more likely to die prematurely than people of normal weight.

Previous research has shown a connection between obesity and heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

For the new study, researchers examined information on the deaths of overweight men and women recorded in 189 previous studies. They found that the risk of dying prematurely was three times greater for overweight or obese men than for overweight women.

Researchers say findings make sense

The higher rates of premature death among men are “consistent with previous observations that obese men have greater insulin resistance, liver fat levels and diabetes risk than women,” said lead author Emanuele Di Angelantonio, who lectures at the University of Cambridge in England.

Researchers studied health records for 3.9 million people worldwide and found overweight people lose about one year of life expectancy, and moderately obese people lose about three years. They classified subjects by using their body mass index, or BMI, which uses height and weight to determine whether a person is underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese.

“Overweight and obesity now cause about 1 in 7 of all premature deaths in Europe and 1 in 5 of all premature deaths in North America," said Richard Peto, a professor at the University of Oxford in England and co-author of the study, published in The Lancet.

What’s overweight?

The World Health Organization estimates 1.3 billion adults worldwide are overweight and another 600 million are obese.

A person who is 5-foot-3 is considered overweight at 140 to 170 pounds and obese at heavier than 170. For a person who is 5 feet 11 inches tall, overweight is considered to be 180 to 210 pounds.

You can check your BMI by using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculator here.

Nonsmokers with no diseases

The study focused on people who were nonsmokers without any known chronic diseases at the time their BMI was recorded. The researchers cautioned that their choice to focus on this group of overweight people means it may be impossible to generalize their findings for public health guidelines for the general population.

The researchers also found a somewhat increased risk of premature death in underweight adults.

Further reading

You can read The Lancet study here.

The CDC’s Healthy Weight site discusses the factors that go into maintaining a healthy weight, from diet to regular physical eating. It includes recommendations to avoid weight gain and tips for losing weight.

The National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute discusses the risks of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and other diseases that can stem from being overweight.

If you need help managing your weight, talk to your health care provider about the best diet and exercise program for you. You can find a Providence provider here.

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