We're a little crazy, about science!

Lose Weight, Live Longer. Simple, Right?

It's funny because it's true.

It’s funny because it’s true.

Suprise! Really this shouldn’t come as a shock, but adults with extreme obesity have increased risks of dying at a younger age from cancer and other complications like stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and kidney and liver diseases, according to results of an analysis of data pooled from 20 large studies of people from three countries. The study found that people with class III obesity [or extreme, as defined as a BMI of greater than 40] had a dramatic reduction in life expectancy compared with people of normal weight.

“While once a relatively uncommon condition, the prevalence of class III, or extreme, obesity is on the rise. In the United States, for example, six percent of adults are now classified as extremely obese, which, for a person of average height, is more than 100 pounds over the recommended range for normal weight,” said Cari Kitahara, Ph.D., Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, NCI, and lead author of the study. “Prior to our study, little had been known about the risk of premature death associated with extreme obesity.”

So let’s talk about the study, the researchers classified participants according to their body mass index [BMI], which is a measure of total body fat [which I have huge problems with] and is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared. BMI classifications [kilogram/meter-squared] are:

  • Normal weight: 18.5-24.9
  • Overweight: 25.0- 29.9
  • Class I obesity: 30.0-34.9
  • Class II obesity: 35.0-39.9
  • Class III obesity: 40.0 or higher

[Loony Hint: BMI can be highly inaccurate, take for example bodybuilders, no one would suggest that they are overweight or even anywhere remotely fat, but a BMI calculation for them would come back in some –if not all– cases as Class 3, all while having a sub 5% body fat percentage, when show ready anyway. For comparison, the average person will be somewhere between 15-20ish % bodyfat when measured more accurately. BMI does not take into account body structure and physical aptitude, only weight and hight, meaning while it is good at broad strokes, it can sometimes give a falsely high result. In any case, on with the show.]

The 20 studies that were analyzed included adults from the United States, Sweden and Australia. After excluding individuals who had ever smoked or had a history of certain diseases, the researchers evaluated the risk of premature death overall and the risk of premature death from specific causes in more than 9,500 individuals who were class III obese and 304,000 others who were classified as “normal” weight.

The researchers found that the risk of dying overall and from most major health causes rose continuously with increasing BMI within the class III obesity group. Statistical analyses of all that data indicated that the excess numbers of deaths in the class III obesity group were mostly due to heart disease, cancer and diabetes. That should not be surprising if you know someone who falls in that category. Years of life lost 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. To provide context, the researchers found that the number of years of life lost for class III obesity was equal or higher than that of current [versus never] cigarette smokers among normal-weight participants in the same study. Which to me sounds like a better deal, if I’m going to die early I would rather it be from food than cigarettes, but that’s just inner fat kid talking.

As I mentioned earlier the accuracy of the study findings is limited by the use of mostly self-reported height and weight measurements and of course by the use of BMI as the sole measure of obesity. I should mention that the researchers noted, the results highlight the need to develop more effective interventions to combat the growing public health problem of extreme obesity.

“Given our findings, it appears that class III obesity is increasing and may soon emerge as a major cause of early death in this and other countries worldwide,” said Patricia Hartge, Sc.D., Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, and senior author of the study.

Which I guess means I need to put down the cake and ice cream and instead hit the treadmill. Another useless Loony hint, I hate running and love eating. A bad combination if it weren’t for all the weight lifting that I love to do. The point is I guess to find ways to be more active that you enjoy, if you don’t like running and can’t seem to find a reason to enjoy it [frankly how could you, weirdo runners] then you’ll never stick with it long term. There are other ways you can stay fit and healthy that are much more enjoyable.

Want the full study? You’re in luck, you can find that —here!

Kitahara, C., Flint, A., Berrington de Gonzalez, A., Bernstein, L., Brotzman, M., MacInnis, R., Moore, S., Robien, K., Rosenberg, P., Singh, P., Weiderpass, E., Adami, H., Anton-Culver, H., Ballard-Barbash, R., Buring, J., Freedman, D., Fraser, G., Beane Freeman, L., Gapstur, S., Gaziano, J., Giles, G., Håkansson, N., Hoppin, J., Hu, F., Koenig, K., Linet, M., Park, Y., Patel, A., Purdue, M., Schairer, C., Sesso, H., Visvanathan, K., White, E., Wolk, A., Zeleniuch-Jacquotte, A., & Hartge, P. (2014). Association between Class III Obesity (BMI of 40–59 kg/m2) and Mortality: A Pooled Analysis of 20 Prospective Studies PLoS Medicine, 11 (7) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001673

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