A new Canadian study finds that overweight and obese individuals may have their life expectancy shortened by up to eight years.
Researchers from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, examined the relationship between body weight and life expectancy. Their study is published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.
In the article, researchers said overweight and obese individuals are at risk to develop diabetes or cardiovascular disease earlier in life. They also explain that this excess weight can reduce healthy life-years by nearly two decades of healthy life.
“In collaboration with researchers from the University of Calgary and the University of British Columbia, 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,” said lead author Steven Grover, M.D.
Grover and 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 individuals was also used to analyze the contribution of excess body weight to years of life lost and healthy years of life lost.
Their findings estimated 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 pattern is clear — the more an individual weighs and the younger their age, the greater the effect on their health,” Grover said. “In terms of life expectancy, we feel being overweight is as bad as cigarette smoking.”
Researchers believe the new information can be used to personalize interventions so that they are 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?” Grover said.
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 said.
Source: McGill University Health Centre