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Extreme Obesity Drastically Cuts Lifespan

Once a relatively rare condition, class III (or extreme) obesity is on the rise in the United States and worldwide. A recent study suggests that being extremely obese could cut a person’s life expectancy by as much as 13.7 years.

Data for this analysis included 20 studies that had 313,575 total participants. Of those participants, 9,564 were classified as extremely obese while the other 304,011 were considered normal weight.

The researchers used body mass index (BMI) to determine obesity. The scale for BMI is:

Normal weight: 18.5-24.9

Overweight: 25.0-29.9

Class I obesity: 30.0-34.9

Class II obesity: 35.9-39.9

Class III obesity: 40.0 or higher

After examining the data, the researchers found that overall risk of dying from the majority of major health issues rose with increasing BMI in the class III group. For people in the BMI range of 40-44.9, there was a 6.5 year loss in life. For those in the 55-59.9 range, there was a 13.7 year loss of life.

To emphasize the seriousness of those numbers, the researchers pointed out that the loss of life is equivalent to or higher than the difference between current smokers and people who have never smoked in the normal weight cohort of the study.

Researchers from the National Cancer Institute conducted the study. It was published on July 8, 2014, in PLoS Medicine.

Obesity has a far ranging negative effect on health. Each year, obesity causes approximately 300,000 premature deaths in the United States. The negative health effects associated with obesity include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, metabolic syndrome and sleep apnea.

Improving eating habits and increasing physical activity play a vital role in preventing obesity. It is recommended that we eat five to six servings of fruits and vegetables per day. It also recommended that we get at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity every day.

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