Excess body fat can take years off your life, according to an international study linking being overweight or obese to significantly increased risk for death.
Published in The Lancet, this study hoped to settle the debate on the association between obesity and mortality risk. While there’s a wealth of evidence linking excess weight to poor health outcomes, a previous study found no relationship between obesity and mortality risk, sending mixed messages to the public. To set the record straight, the Global BMI Mortality Collaboration was established to look at weight and mortality risk across different populations.
Together, their analysis included nearly 4 million people from 189 studies across four continents, making it one of the largest and most diverse studies of its kind. Researchers were careful to include only never-smokers without chronic diseases who survived at least five years into each study, since these factors can skew outcomes.
With up to 15 years of follow-up, researchers found that overweight and obesity were both linked to increased risk of death. Not surprisingly, the more overweight or obese an individual was, the greater their mortality risk.
Overweight adults had 7–22% higher mortality risk than normal weight adults. Worse, obese adults had up to 3 times greater risk of death than those who were normal weight. According to authors, these associations were strong across all populations included in the study.
Authors hope findings guide international public health policy, as obesity rates remain at a record high and continue to grow in all corners of the world. Currently, the World Health Organization estimates that 1.3 billion adults worldwide are overweight, and an additional 600 million are obese. As this study confirms, overweight and obesity can have a major negative impact on health outcomes and survival. Thus, authors encourage international strategies to combat overweight and obesity and help improve outcomes for future generations.