Saturday, August 17, 2013

Obesity and Death Rates

From August 15, 2013 Los Angeles Times:
The death toll of the nation's obesity epidemic may be close to four times higher than has been widely believed, and all that excess weight could reverse the steady trend of lengthening life spans for a generation of younger Americans, new research warns.

Some 18.2% of premature deaths in the United States between 1986 and 2006 were associated with excess body mass, according to a team of sociologists led by a Columbia University demographer. That estimate, published online Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health, is far higher than the 5% toll widely cited by researchers.

The new figures do not reflect newly discovered facts about obesity's effects on health. Rather, they emerged after the researchers applied a finer-grained approach to examining obesity across the U.S. population.

Using historical survey data, the study authors toted up differences in excess weight status across different gender, ethnic and age groups. They combined that data with existing "mortality risk" statistics to estimate how many Americans over age 40 who died during that 20-year period did so because of weight-related causes.
This should not be any great surprise.  Extra weight means extra strain on the heart and joints, and obesity is seldom the result of simply eating too much high-protein food.  It's usually the result of gorging on fats and carbohydrates, which have all sorts of troublesome consequences in quantity.

2 comments:

jdege said...

There is no doubt whatsoever that obesity is strongly correlated to increased likelihood of death. But To what degree it is causative is not clear.

That is, rather than obesity causing diabetes, heart disease, etc., it may rather be that some underlying condition causes diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Which would indicate that losing weight without fixing the underlying condition might not be of much help.

There are, after all, quite a number of metabolically obese, normal weight people.

Rich Rostrom said...

OTOH, there are recent studies showing that mild obesity correlates with lower death rates among the elderly.

IIRC, there have even been studies showing little or no correlation between morbid obesity and death rates.

It seems utterly obvious that being fat (especially grossly fat) should kill - but it's been very hard to prove it.