‘Be­ing fat will kill you’

Heavy peo­ple may die up to 3 years early, study finds, and it’s more dan­ger­ous for men than women

The Hamilton Spectator - - HEALTH - MARIA CHENG

LON­DON — Be­ing too heavy may cost you your life — lit­er­ally. Sci­en­tists say over­weight peo­ple die one year ear­lier than ex­pected and that mod­er­ately obese peo­ple die up to three years pre­ma­turely.

Doc­tors have long warned that be­ing over­weight can lead to health com­pli­ca­tions in­clud­ing heart dis­ease, stroke and can­cer, and pre­vi­ous stud­ies have al­ready found that ex­tra pounds can take years off your life.

In the new study, which the au­thors say is the largest-ever such anal­y­sis, re­searchers sifted through data for nearly 4 mil­lion non-smok­ing adults in 32 coun­tries pub­lished from 1970 to last year. They com­pared the risk of death to peo­ple’s body mass index, or BMI, a mea­sure of body fat that is cal­cu­lated us­ing height and weight.

They de­fined a BMI from 18.5 to 25 as nor­mal, 25-30 as over­weight, 30-35 as mod­er­ately obese and over 40 as se­verely obese. A per­son who is 5 foot 4 is con­sid­ered obese at a weight of 174 pounds or more.

Over­weight peo­ple lose a year of life on av­er­age and mod­er­ately over­weight peo­ple lose three years, said Richard Peto of Ox­ford Univer­sity, one of the study au­thors. A pre­vi­ous study found that be­ing se­verely obese could cost as much as eight years of life.

The study also found that be­ing obese is far more dan­ger­ous for men than for women.

“The ex­cess risk of pre­ma­ture death is about three times as big for a man who gets fat as for a woman who gets fat,” Peto said. Men tend to be higher risk for ear­lier death in gen­eral, and the risk wors­ens when obe­sity is added to the equa­tion, he said.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, 15 per cent of women world­wide and 11 per cent of men are obese. Over­all, the WHO es­ti­mates that more than 1 bil­lion adults are over­weight and an­other 600 mil­lion peo­ple are obese.

Car­ry­ing too much weight is now sec­ond to smok­ing as a cause of pre­ma­ture death in North Amer­ica and Europe; smok­ing causes about a quar­ter of all pre­ma­ture deaths there while be­ing too heavy now causes about 14 to 20 per cent of such deaths.

Peto ac­knowl­edged that more is needed than to sim­ply ad­vise peo­ple to lose weight, be­cause drop­ping even a few pounds and keep­ing them off is no­to­ri­ously dif­fi­cult.

“It might be eas­ier to rec­om­mend that peo­ple try very hard not to put on weight in the first place, par­tic­u­larly be­fore they hit mid­dle age,” he said.

Tam Fry, spokesman for Bri­tain’s Na­tional Obe­sity Fo­rum, said the new study was fur­ther proof of the dan­gers of tip­ping the scales.

“We’ve known for some time that if you’re not look­ing af­ter your­self, then be­ing fat will kill you,” Fry said. “If you don’t want to die ear­lier, then you should take steps to do some­thing about your weight.”

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Sci­en­tists say over­weight peo­ple die one year ear­lier than ex­pected and that mod­er­ately obese peo­ple die up to three years pre­ma­turely.

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