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Morbidly Obese People have Greater Risk of Death

Update Date: Jul 08, 2014 02:05 PM EDT

Obesity is a known risk factor for premature death. In a new study, researchers further examined the effects of being obese on one's mortality risk. The team focused on people who were morbidly obese, grouped as class III obesity, and found that these people had higher rates of death from obesity-related diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

For this study, the team examined data taken from 20 studies from the National Cancer Institute Cohort Consortium. The researchers analyzed a total of 9,564 class III obese adults who were not smokers and did not have a history of chronic disease and compared them to 304,011 normal-weight adults. The team defined class III obesity as having a BMI higher than 40 kg/m2.

The team calculated mortality rates in deaths per 100,000 people per year. They found that over the time span of 30 years, the mortality rates for obese men and women were 856 and 663 respectively. The rates for normal weight men and women were 346.7 and 280.5 respectively The leading cause of death was heart disease followed by cancer and diabetes for the class III obese adults.

"Class III obesity is associated with excess rates of total mortality and mortality due to a wide range of causes, particularly heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and that the risk of death overall and from these specific causes continues to rise with increasing values of BMI," the authors concluded according to the press release. "We found that the reduction in life expectancy associated with class III obesity was similar to (and, for BMI values above 50 kg/m2, even greater than) that observed for current smoking."

The team calculated that people who were morbidly obese lost an estimated 6.5 to 13.7 years in comparison to people who were normal-weight. The findings of this study stress the importance of maintaining a healthy weight and diet in order to reduce one's risk of premature death.

The study, "Association between Class III Obesity (BMI of 40 kg/m2) and Mortality: A Pooled Analysis of 20 Prospective Studies," was published in PLOS Medicine.

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