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Studies are mounting that continue to prove that obesity shortens our lives -- by as much as 14 years for the most obese but also 6.5 years for those on the lower end of the obesity scale.
For those who are most severely obese, the impact on life expectancy is even worse than for smokers.
These are among the conclusions of a report released recently that examined 57 long-term obesity studies of nearly 1 million people from the United States, Australia and Sweden. Obese individuals tended to die earlier than the average expected life span from heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Obese men died more often than other men from heart disease and diabetes, while obese women died more often than other women of cancer. The cancers that kill obese individuals most are breast, colon, pancreatic, ovarian, kidney, esophagus, thyroid, and gall bladder.
The new report is especially alarming in the context of the growing number of individuals who need to lose at least 100 pounds to achieve their recommended or normal weight. This group is now about 6 percent of adults in the United States. Further, the number of adults with a Body Mass Index over 40 is four times higher now than the 1980s, and the number with BMI over 50 is 10 percent higher. An example of BMI over 40 is a 250-pound person who is 5'6"; an example of BMI over 50 is a 350-pound person who is 5'10".
The researchers also found that men face more threats from extreme obesity than women, and younger adults face more threats than older adults. Diet, lifestyle counseling, and weight-loss medication have limited impact, according to the researchers. Bariatric surgery is effective but expensive.
The report authors said that as obesity increases in the U.S., health care costs will soar and death rates will increase.