A new study suggests that people who have been obese or overweight at any point in their lives and lost weight later on, may still have a higher risk of dying early.
Researchers found that during the 23-year study period, participants who had been overweight at any time during their lives were nineteen percent more likely to die, compared with those who had always remained in the normal weight range.
Moreover, participants who had been obese at some point – with a body mass index BMI of 30.0 to 34.9 – had a sixty-five percent higher risk of dying during the study, compared with participants who had maintained a normal weight. Those who had had a body mass index of 35.0 or above – severely obese – had an almost 150 percent risk of dying during the study period, than those who had never exceeded normal weight.
Andrew Stokes, author of the study and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Global Health and Center for Global Health and Development at the Boston University School of Public Health, said that the study sheds light on the obesity epidemic and on the need to stop it.
In the new study – published January 4 in the journal PNAS – the researchers examined the body mass indexes of about 6,000 Americans. When the study began in 1988, the participants were between the ages of fifty and seventy-four. The researchers also analysed the participants’ lifetime BMI. This approach is different from previous studies, which tended to look at people’s BMIs at only one point in their lives, according to the researchers.
In 2013, one such study found that being overweight did not decrease a person’s life span, but rather increased it, Stokes stated. Also, there was no link found between being mildly obese and higher risk of death. Those findings suggested that only morbidly obese people could have elevated risks of dying earlier in life, he said.
However, the new study found quite the opposite. Stokes said that at any level of BMI above the normal range, the risk of death increases. Obesity is affecting many people in the United States, which is why it needs to be taken very seriously, Stokes added.
Dr. Mitchell Roslin, chief of obesity surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said that physical fitness is crucial when it comes to reducing various health risks that may come with obesity. Not all heavy people will die young, but those who have metabolic conditions like severe sleep apnea, diabetes or who are not fit, have a disproportionately high risk.
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