Obesity in America: More Deadly than Cigarettes


With obesity in America now affecting more than one-third of the population, the health risks are well known–diabetes and heart disease, even cancer. But a new study finds that obesity can take more years off of your life than smoking cigarettes.

That’s the result of a study conducted by the National Cancer Institute and published in the current issue of the journal PLOS Medicine.

The study, which looked at data from 20 previous studies, is the largest of its kind ever conducted. Data collected on obesity in America, Australia and Sweden found that obesity could take as much as 6.5 years off of life expectancy. In cases where people carried more than 100 extra pounds of body weight, the number rose to nearly 14 years off of one’s life expectancy.

“The latest findings suggest that extreme obesity may be even more dangerous for men than it is for women and for younger adults compared with older ones,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “They come as evidence mounts that weight-loss medications, as well as diet and lifestyle counseling, work only modestly in helping the obese lose weight and keep it off.”

While the researchers did not account for the effects less extreme obesity had on life expectancy, the data delivers the first look at severe obesity’s impact on human health, which was never calculated before because it was such a rare condition.

Thirty-six percent of Americans are obese, with a body mass index of 40 or higher. This number has more than quadrupled since the 1980s, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

“If current global trends in obesity continue, we must expect to see substantially increased rates of mortality due to these major causes of death, as well as increasing healthcare costs,” the authors wrote.

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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