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Obesity as Detrimental to Life Expectancy as Smoking

Posted by Emily Littman, Mar 20, 2009.
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Obesity as Detrimental to Life Expectancy as Smoking, Study Shows 

Mar 18, 2009

A study published online in the Lancet suggests that obesity can trim as much as a decade off an individual's life expectancy, comparable to the effects of a life-long smoking habit, USA Today reports. To gauge obesity's effect on life expectancy, researchers at Oxford University in England reviewed the findings of 57 studies conducted in Europe and the United States involving 894,576 adults. During the course of the studies, approximately 100,000 of the participants died. Based on this analysis, the researchers determined that people who are overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of between 25 and 29.9 could experience a one-year decrease in their life span. Obese individuals with a BMI at or above 35 could shave about five to seven years off their projected life expectancy, while those with a BMI of 40 or more could lose eight to 10 years of life, the same reduction experienced by life-long smokers. The data also revealed that, for every five-point increase in BMI above a healthy weight, the risk of premature death increased 30 percent. Based on these findings, the researchers conclude that individuals with a BMI between 22.5 and 25 have the lowest risk of premature death. As such, they suggest that adults take steps to maintain a healthy weight and abstain from other habits, such as smoking, that could promote premature death (Hellmich, USA Today, 3/17/09 [registration required]; Maugh II, Los Angeles Times, 3/17/09 [registration required]; Petro et al., Lancet, 3/18/09 [subscription required]).

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