Obesity can cut lifespan by 14 yearsNews added by Benefits Pro on July 10, 2014
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By Alan Goforth

Obesity is closely connected to heart disease, diabetes and other conditions that can drive up health care costs for employers. Obese employees also may be less capable of performing basic physical tasks that their jobs require. However, employers may not realize that severe obesity can shorten someone’s life — and time of productivity in the workforce — by as much as 14 years.

“We found that the death rates in severely obese adults were about 2-1/2 times higher than in adults in the normal weight range,” said lead investigator Cari Kitahara, a research fellow at the U.S. National Cancer Institute. This risk is comparable with smoking.

Conclusions were drawn from a compilation of 20 earlier studies. Researchers found that severe obesity (defined as a body mass index [BMI] greater than 40) significantly increases the risk of early death early from heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
  • Severe obesity accounts for 509 deaths per 100,000 men each year.

  • The rate among women is 382 deaths for each 10,000.
How big is too big? BMI is calculated from a person’s height and weight. Someone is 5-feet, 4-inches tall and weighs 235 pounds has a BMI of 40, as does someone who is 5-foot-10 and weighs 280 pounds. A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered healthy.

About 6 percent of U.S. adults are severely obese, according to the study. There is no clear evidence that losing weight would increase lifespan for these people. However, researchers do believe there is value in employer programs that help workers keep the weight off in the first place.

“It can and must be addressed with prevention, since severe obesity rarely has to happen in the first place,” said David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. “We have long had clear and compelling evidence that obesity is related to the major chronic diseases that plague modern societies: heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, dementia and more.”

Researchers focused on nearly 10,000 severely obese people who had never smoked or had any chronic disease. They compared these people with about 304,000 normal-weight adults. Over the 30-year study period, the severely obese men and women were more likely to die early compared with normal-weight people.

Heart disease was the major factor linked with death among the severely obese, followed by cancer, diabetes, kidney and liver disease. In addition, the likelihood of dying from one of these diseases increased along with a person’s weight.

Originally published on BenefitsPro.com
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