Feb 22, 2019 | Updated: 08:52 AM EST

Obesity Takes Away 8 Years of One's Life, But Causes Health Problems For Decades

Dec 06, 2014 09:26 PM EST

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As obesity continues to haunt America, more studies are being undertaken to see its effects amongst the general populace, which to date affects roughly 79 million U.S adults. The condition has been made widespread with the popularity of trans-fat abundant food, whose availability ranges from the ubiquitous fast food chains to the ready-to-eat quick-fix packed meals available in supermarkets, and with the less than active lifestyle made even more sedentary by remote-controlled technology and of course, the virtual world.

While it feels good to splurge in food that hit on our cravings, it's also worth noting that studies, recent and old, point to the negative repercussions of being obese. One of the latest studies found that obesity could actually shorten one's life span by almost eight years. This is on top of the 19 years of ill health before one succumbs to his or her last breath.

Researchers from McGill University found that obesity can shorten one's life expectancy by up to eight years for those who are very obese. The number of years that could be slashed in one's life depends on the severity of the person's obesity, according to the study. Aside from this, obesity is also linked to poor health, with constant illnesses within almost 20 years; this is attributed to diseases caused by obesity such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Researchers compiled data from around 4,000 people of varying body weights, then created a computer model that estimates the risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease and assesses how weight affects life expectancy.

As it turned out, severely obese men between 20 and 39 years of age lost 8.4 years of life compared to their healthy-weight counterparts. Women lost 6.1 years. The study also found that obese people could lose up to six years of life, while people who were simply overweight could lose up to three years of life.

Professor and epidemiologist Steven Grover, M.D., the study's lead author, said that the age at which one started gaining weight and fell under the category "overweight" to "obese" is a factor in determining one's life expectancy. Those who gained a hefty amount of weight at an early age are more likely to suffer shortened life span. The younger the individual the worse the potential impact: Those in their 60s and 70s who are severely obese were found to have lost one year, but dealt with 7 more years of ill health.

"The pattern is clear : the more an individual weighs and the younger their age, the greater the effect on their health," Grover said in a written release. "In terms of life-expectancy, we feel being overweight is as bad as cigarette smoking."

Reports say that people are generally considered overweight if they have a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9. Those who are obese have a BMI of 30 and above, and a healthy BMI is generally defined as 18.5 to 25.

"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?" Grover said in the statement.

The research team has launched a three-year study in community pharmacies across the country to determine whether the information to be provided would change the lifestyle of the people and help them be more wary of their weight.

"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 said.

The findings of the study were published in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.

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