‘Tis the season for holiday cheer, family gatherings and over-eating. However, researchers at the Research Institute of the McGill University Centre (RI-MUHC) want you to reconsider the practice of over-eating, as they recently examined the relationship between body weight and life expectancy.
Their findings show that overweight and obese individuals have the potential to decrease life expectancy by up to eight years.
The study, published in the current issue of The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, further demonstrates that when one considers that these individuals may also develop diabetes and cardiovascular disease earlier in life, this excess weight can rob them of nearly two decades of healthy life.
“Our team has developed a model to help doctors and their patients better understand how excess body weight contributes to reduced life expectancy and premature development of heart disease and diabetes,” lead author Dr. Steven Grover, a Clinical Epidemiologist at the RI-MUHC and a professor of Medicine at McGill University said in a press release.
Data was gathered from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (from years 2003 to 2010) and was used to develop a model that estimates the annual risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in adults with different body weights.
Over 4,000 individuals were surveyed during these years and their information was used to analyze the contribution of excess body weight to years of life lost and healthy years of life lost.
According to their findings, individuals who were very obese could lose up to eight years of life, obese individuals could lose up to six years, and those who were overweight could lose up to three years.
In addition, healthy life-years lost were two to four times higher for overweight and obese individuals compared to those who had a healthy weight, defined as 18.5 to 24.9 body mass index (BMI).
The age at which the excess weight accumulated was an important factor and the worst outcomes were in those who gained their weight at earlier ages.
“The pattern is clear – the more an individual weights and the younger their age, the greater the effect on their health,” Grover said. “In terms of life expectancy, we feel being overweight is as bad as cigarette smoking.”
As the next step, Grover and his team would like to personalize this information in order to make it more relevant and compelling for patients.
What may be interesting for patients are the ‘what if?’ questions.
What if they lose 10 to 15 pounds? Or, what if they become more active? How will this change the numbers and the life expectancy of the patients? These are the type of questions Dr. Grover’s team would like to answer.
In order to answer these questions and more, the research team is conducting a three year long study in community pharmacies across the country.
Studies like the one Grover conducted is not only important for the medical community but also important for the life insurance industry, as life expectancy and BMI play a huge factor in determining one’s premium.
Individuals who fall either below or above the health BMI category of 18.5 to 24.9 may suffer the consequences of a higher premium, as they are a higher insurance risk for the company.