Extreme obesity may catastrophically decrease life expectancy

Harold Mandel's picture
Too obese to work

There has been deepening concerns about the growing obesity epidemic worldwide. Obesity appears to be primarily due to unhealthy eating patterns and sedentary lifestyles. Obesity is associated with a myriad of serious health conditions. Recent research has shown that the decrease in life expectancy with extreme obesity is often catastrophic.

There has been a dramatic increase in the prevalence of class III obesity

There has been a dramatic increase in the prevalence of class III obesity (BMI of 40–59 kg/m2) in several countries reported PLOS One. Class III obesity currently affects 6 percent of adults in the United States. Class III obesity has been found to be associated with substantially increased rates of total mortality. There are major reductions in life expectancy with extreme obesity in comparison with normal weight. Most of the cases of excess deaths associated with extreme obesity are due several major illnesses.

Extreme obesity increases risks of dying at a younger age from many diseases

A National Cancer Institute study has found extreme obesity may shorten life expectancy as much as 14 years reports he National Institutes of Health. According to results of an analysis of data which was pooled from 20 large studies of people from the United States, Sweden and Australia adults with extreme obesity have increased risks of dying at a younger age from many diseases including

1: Cancer

2: Heart disease

3: Stroke


4: Diabetes

5: Kidney disease

6: Liver disease

Overall people with class III, or extreme, obesity had a dramatic reduction in life expectancy in comparison with people of normal weight.

Six percent of the USA is extremely obese

Extreme obesity was at one time very uncommon. However, class III obesity is now on the rise. The finding that six percent of adults in the United States are now classified as extremely obese has been startling. These people are greater than 100 pounds over the recommended range for normal weight. Cari Kitahara, Ph.D., lead author of this study, has said prior to this study there was not much known about the risk of premature death which is associated with extreme obesity.

It was observed by the researchers that the overall risk of dying from most major health causes rose continuously with increasing BMI within the group with class III obesity. The excess numbers of deaths in the class III obesity group were primarily due to heart disease, cancer and diabetes. The years of life lost to extreme obesity ranged from 6.5 years for participants with a BMI of 40-44.9 to 13.7 years for a BMI of 55-59.9. It is significant that number of years of life lost for class III obesity was found to be equal or higher than that of present, versus never, cigarette smokers among normal-weight participants in this study.

Clearly, the problem of extreme obesity is worse than previously thought. The finding of dramatic increases in mortality with this condition as it becomes more widespread is disturbing. The researchers are on target to be concerned about extreme obesity emerging as a major cause of early death in the United States and other countries across the world. There is a critical need for more aggressive public health initiatives and initiatives by primary care physicians to confront the growing problem of extreme obesity.

Photo courtesy of jesadaphorn/Freedigitalphotos.net

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