Obesity Could Trim Up to 8 Years Off Life

December 8, 2014 Updated: December 11, 2014

A new computer model shows how much being overweight or obese can decrease a person’s life expectancy.

“…Our team has developed a computer model to help doctors and their patients better understand how excess body weight contributes to reduced life expectancy and premature development of heart disease and diabetes,” says lead author Steven Grover, a clinical epidemiologist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre and a professor of medicine at McGill University.

Grover and his colleagues used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (from years 2003 to 2010) to develop a model that estimates the annual risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in adults with different body weights.

This data from almost 4,000 people was also used to analyze the contribution of excess body weight to years of life lost and healthy years of life lost.

Obesity Risks

Their findings estimate that individuals who were very obese could lose up to eight years of life, obese individuals could lose up to six years, and those who were overweight could lose up to three years.

In addition, healthy life-years lost were two to four times higher for overweight and obese individuals compared to those who had a healthy weight, defined as 18.5-25 body mass index (BMI). The age at which the excess weight accumulated was an important factor and the worst outcomes were in those who gained their weight at earlier ages.

The study, published in the current issue of The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, further demonstrates that when one considers that these individuals may also develop diabetes or cardiovascular disease earlier in life, this excess weight can rob them of nearly two decades of healthy life.

“The pattern is clear—the more an individual weighs and the younger their age, the greater the effect on their health,” Grover adds. “In terms of life expectancy, we feel being overweight is as bad as cigarette smoking.”

Personalizing the Information

The next steps are to personalize this information in order to make it more relevant and compelling for patients. “What may be interesting for patients are the ‘what if?’ questions. What if they lose 10 to 15 pounds? Or, what if they are more active? How will this change the numbers?” says Grover.

The research team is now conducting a three-year study in community pharmacies across the country to see if engaging patients with this information and then offering them a web-based e-health program will help them adopt healthier lifestyles, including healthier diets and regular physical activity.

“These clinically meaningful models are useful for patients, and their healthcare professionals, to better appreciate the issues and the benefits of a healthier lifestyle, which we know is difficult for many of us to adopt and maintain, Grover adds.

Funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) supported the work.

Source: McGill University Republished from Futurity.org under Creative Commons License 3.0.

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