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Number of years spent obese linked to death risk

March 21, 2011
Courtesy of Monash University
and World Science staff

For eve­ry two years you have spent obese, your risk of dy­ing is six to sev­en per­cent high­er than it would have been oth­er­wise, a study in­di­cates.

The re­search­ers found the num­ber of years in­di­vid­u­als live with obes­ity is di­rectly linked with risk of death in any giv­en year—in­de­pen­dent of their ac­tu­al lev­el of obes­ity at time of death. 

“Be­fore now, we did not know wheth­er be­ing obese for long­er was any worse for you health than simply be­ing obese. How­ev­er, this re­search shows for the first time that be­ing obese for long­er in­creases your risk of mor­tal­ity, no mat­ter how heavy you ac­tu­ally are,” said re­searcher An­na Peeters of Monash Un­ivers­ity in Aus­tral­ia.

Peeters and col­leagues al­so pre­dicted that the risk of mor­tal­ity as­so­ci­at­ed with adult obes­ity will in­crease in mod­ern popula­t­ions com­pared with pre­vi­ous dec­ades, due to a wide­spread rise in obes­ity.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tors, from Monash Un­ivers­ity and the Un­ivers­ity of Co­pen­ha­gen, an­a­lyzed da­ta from 5,209 peo­ple stud­ied over 48 years from 1948 as part of the Fram­ing­ham Heart Study, a mul­ti­-decade car­di­o­vas­cu­lar sur­vey ad­min­is­tered by the U.S. Na­t­ional Heart, Lung and Blood In­sti­tute. Peeters and col­leagues in­clud­ed only da­ta from par­ti­ci­pants who had been free from pre-existing con­di­tions linked to obes­ity—di­a­betes, car­di­o­vas­cu­lar dis­eases and can­cer.

They found that hav­ing lived with obes­ity for be­tween five and 14.9 years was as­so­ci­at­ed with a more than dou­bled risk of mor­tal­ity, while more than 15 years spent with obes­ity was linked to an al­most tripled risk. The re­search is pub­lished in the Inter­na­tion­al Jour­nal of Epi­dem­iol­ogy.


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For every two years you have spent obese, your risk of dying is six to seven percent higher than it would have been otherwise, a study indicates. The researchers found the number of years individuals live with obesity is directly linked with risk of death in any given year—independent of the actual level of obesity the time of death. “Before now, we did not know whether being obese for longer was any worse for you health than simply being obese. However, this research shows for the first time that being obese for longer increases your risk of mortality, no matter how heavy you actually are,” said researcher Anna Peeters of Monash University in Australia. Peeters and colleagues also predicted that the risk of mortality associated with adult obesity will increase in modern populations compared with previous decades, due to a widespread rise in obesity. The investigators, from Monash University and the University of Copenhagen, analyzed data from 5,209 people studied over 48 years from 1948 as part of the Framingham Heart Study, a multi-decade cardiovascular survey administered by the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Peeters and colleagues included only data from participants who had been free from pre-existing conditions linked to obesity—diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. They found that having lived with obesity for between five and 14.9 years was associated with a more than doubled risk of mortality, while more than 15 years spent with obesity was tied to an almost tripled risk.