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Obesity Cuts Lives by Four Years

Update Date: Jan 17, 2014 10:38 AM EST

Several studies have tied obesity to many life-threatening health conditions, such as heart disease and stroke. According to a new study, researchers set out to calculate the effects of obesity on life expectancy. They reported that obesity could cut people's lives by four years.

"As we are watching the epidemic of obesity grow, we need to understand the huge implications-not just on chronic illness, but also the effect on life expectancy," said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City reported by Medical Xpress. Steinbaum was not involved with the study. "It is time that we treat obesity as a medical illness, because, as with other chronic diseases, it causes premature death."

For this study, the research team composed of Dr. Luisa Borrell and Lalitha Samuel from the City University of New York examined the data compiled by the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination survey. The survey took place between 1988 and 1994. On top of this data set, the team analyzed national death statistics in 2006.

"Given the prevalence of obesity among children and young adults, early intervention is absolutely essential in order to prevent this trend from increasing exponentially as these populations continue to age," Kelly Hogan, a clinical dietitian from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City said.

Based from these numbers, the researchers found that obesity was tied to at least a 20 percent increased risk of death. The team calculated that obese individuals died around 3.7 years faster from all causes. From heart disease specifically, obese individuals died around 1.7 years earlier in comparison to normal-weight adults. The researchers reported that the people with the highest risk of death were between 45 and 64-years-old. Obese adults from this group died 7.1 years faster from all causes and up to 12.8 years faster due to heart disease.

The researchers stressed the importance of educating Americans about healthy diets. Not only does obesity affect one's health, it can put a huge dent in healthcare costs. The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health.

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