Is It True that Obesity Reduces Life Expectancy?

Obesity reduces life expectancy in people because this condition increases the risk of suffering from serious diseases like cancer.
Is It True that Obesity Reduces Life Expectancy?

Last update: 12 July, 2021

Various studies have shown that obesity reduces life expectancy. This data is concerning if you take into account that, in recent years, the number of obese or overweight people in the world has increased significantly.

Scientists have known that obesity can cause cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. The OECD – Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development – estimates that by the year 2050, there could be 95 million premature deaths due to excessive body weight.

According to estimates from that organization, Mexico is the country that will suffer the most severe reduction in life expectancy due to obesity. They are followed by Russia, Poland, the United States, Japan and India, in that order. Today, one in four people is obese.

Obesity reduces life expectancy

An obese woman working at her desk.

Currently, obesity is seen as a global epidemic that doesn’t stop growing. Researchers think that around 1.9 billion adults in the world suffer from this condition. Also, about 340 million children and teens suffer from it.

By itself, obesity becomes a risk factor for contracting diseases. Among them, we can highlight the following, which are closely related to each other:

  • Type 2 diabetes: Currently, 8 out of 10 people with diabetes are also overweight or obese.
  • Hypertension: It’s a common disease in people that are overweight.
  • Heart disease: This includes different heart conditions, several of them with the risk of death.
  • Stroke: Hypertension is its main risk factor.
  • Sleep apneaIncreases your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
  • Metabolic syndrome: It comprises a set of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and strokes.
  • Fatty liver disease: Increases the risk of severe liver damage, cirrhosis or liver failure.
  • Osteoarthritis: Weight puts pressure on the joints and cartilage.
  • Gallbladder problems: There’s an increased risk of developing gallstones and cholecystitis.
  • Kidney disease: Obesity encourages and accelerates kidney disease.
  • Problems during pregnancyObese mothers are at a higher risk of complications during pregnancy.
  • Cancer: Some types of cancer have been associated with being overweight and obese.

Revealing studies

A study in the FMC magazine published in 2013 showed the results of a 40-year follow-up of 3,456 people with obesity, of which 1550 were men and 1907 were women. All of them began the study when they were between 30 and 49 years old.

The research concluded that obesity reduces life expectancy. It points out that men lose around 5.3 years of life and women lose around 7.1 years. If these people also smoked, this increased to 6.7 years in men and 7.2 in women.

Another study conducted by the United States National Cancer Institute (NCI), published in 2014 in the journal PLOS Medicine, concluded that people who are more than 100 pounds overweight live between 6.5 and 13.7 years less than those of normal weight.

The OECD report

A doctor measuring a woman's waist.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development- OECD- presented a report in 2019 according to which, the mere fact of being overweight reduces life expectancy by approximately three to four years. In this case, they’re only talking about people that are overweight, not obese.

The report also noted that three out of five obese people live in rich countries. Among them are the United States, where approximately 40% of adults and 20% of children have excessive body weight. In the United Kingdom, three out of five people are overweight.

The OECD draws attention to the fact that 50% of people in the world have an unhealthy diet. Two out of five people don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. In addition, one in three people don’t do enough physical activity.

This organization warned that, if this situation doesn’t change, in the next 30 years 60% of new cases of diabetes will be caused by obesity. Also, it will cause 18% of cardiovascular diseases, 11% of dementias, and 8% of different types of cancer.

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