Healthy Living

Obesity and Life Expectancy

Obesity and Life Expectancy

Key Takeaways

  • Obese people without any major health issues may live as long as others who are of normal weight.

Researchers from Canada have shown that obese people without any major health issues may live as long as others who are of normal weight. 

“This shows that one should not look at the weight alone," says researcher Jennifer Kuk, PhD, assistant professor of kinesiology and health science at York University in Toronto. She adds that if a person is living a healthy lifestyle, being physically active, and having a healthy diet are more important than one's body weight or weight loss.

The researchers used the Edmonton Obesity Staging System (EOSS), a new tool to identify the people who will be benefited from weight loss and weight loss surgery. This tool ranks the people on the basis of whether they have any conditions like heart diseases and cancer.

In this study, published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, about 6,000 obese people from America were followed up for 16 years. The risk of death due to heart disease and any other cause in the participants were compared to death risk in 23,000 people with normal body weight. As per the study, the EOSS grades were modified to 0-3 from 0-4. The grades of EOSS are based on body mass index (BMI), in which a measure above 30 is considered to be obese. It also considers conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.

These participants were two times more likely to die of heart disease. People who had an EOSS grade of 0 to 1, and mild or no co-existing medical conditions, the risk of death due to any condition was equivalent to that of people with a normal body weight. In fact, the risk of heart disease in this group was lower than that of normal body weight people. Participants who were in stages 0 to 1 are very active and have a healthy diet. They usually feel fine and may not want to lose weight.

People in stage 1 of EOSS may have a slight increase in the blood pressure but may not require any medication. The average weight of the three groups was:

  • 0 to 1 – 33
  • Stage 2 – 33.4
  • Stage 3 – 33.5

Although the study shows a decreased risk, it does not mean that one can become overweight. As the body weight increases the risk of heart diseases and other conditions also increase considerably. Kelly Brownell, PhD, director of The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, who reviewed the study, feels that weight leads to different risks in different people. “The most important message is that people should eat healthy and have a healthy lifestyle and exercise regularly," says Brownell. He says that many of the obese people are not worried about the condition as it does not affect them adversely. Some people may not develop any problems while others may develop conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.