Tuesday, January 7, 2003

Extra pounds, smoking equally bad, study says

By David B. Caruso
The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA - People who are overweight at 40 are likely to die at least three years sooner than those who are slim, meaning that in terms of life expectancy, being fat during middle age is just as bad as smoking, researchers say.

The study was conducted by Dutch researchers and published in today's issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Nonsmokers who were classified as overweight, but not obese, lost an average of three years off their lives. Obese people died even sooner. Obese female nonsmokers lost an average 7.1 years, while men lost 5.8 years.

Scientists have long known that overweight people have shorter life expectancies, but few large-scale studies have been able to pinpoint how many years they lose.

"This study is saying that if you are overweight by your mid-30s to mid-40s, even if you lose some weight later on, you still carry a higher risk of dying," said Dr. Serge Jabbour, director of the weight-loss clinic at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.

For smokers, the results were even worse. Obese female smokers died 7.2 years sooner than normal-weight smokers, and 13.3 years sooner than normal-weight nonsmoking women. Obese male smokers lived 6.7 years less than trim smokers, and 13.7 years less than normal-weight nonsmokers.

The results were culled from vital statistics collected from 3,457 volunteers in Framingham, Mass., from 1948 to 1990. The data were analyzed at Erasmus Medical Center and the University of Gronigen, Netherlands.

About two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese.

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