The Cost (in Years) of Obesity

There’s a number of habits and health conditions that are well known to raise mortality risk, such as smoking, cancer and a lack of physical activity. But according to at least one study, obesity could prove more harmful to your long-term health than literally anything else.

Ranking the Threats

This was the conclusion of a collaborative effort between researchers from the Cleveland Clinic and the New York University School of Medicine. According to them, obesity is responsible for more preventable life-years lost than every other cause. This includes diabetes, high blood pressure and tobacco consumption.

The researchers determined lost life years by examining hypothetical sets of portions of the overall US population. For each of these sets, the authors discarded one single risk factor, and documented the group’s change in mortality. Once this was accomplished, the group was then contrasted against an “optimal” group that removed all potential risk factors from the equation.

When the dust settled, the Cleveland Clinic/ NYU team was able to rank the biggest culprits for life-years lost, which are 1) obesity, 2) diabetes, 3)tobacco use, 4) high blood pressure (hypertension), and 5) high cholesterol.

Getting Answers

The study’s lead author, Glen Taksler, Ph.D. of the Cleveland Clinic, noted the importance of finding the root causes of premature deaths. “Modifiable behavioral risk factors pose a substantial mortality burden in the U.S.These preliminary results continue to highlight the importance of weight loss, diabetes management and healthy eating in the U.S. population.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than four in ten US adults qualified as obese between the beginning of 2017 and March 2020.

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