Most of us have heard that being overweight or obese can increase our risk of certain medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and certain kinds of cancer. However, fewer of us realize that a large body of research now suggests that weight affects aging and longevity, too. When we carry too much fat on our bodies, it can age us more quickly and take years off our lives.
In fact, a recent McGill University study found that weight affects aging in quite a substantial way. The researchers determined that people suffering from obesity could live up to 8 years less than their thinner counterparts. The reason was that the association between obesity and developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes is a serious one. Those chronic illnesses can slash into our life spans, taking away several years that could otherwise have been ours.
That research was published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology medical journal. It went on to say that the way weight affects aging isn’t just a matter of shortening the number of years in which we are alive. It also pointed out that while people suffering from obesity don’t typically live as long, they also don’t live as many healthy years. In fact, the researchers found that being obese or extremely obese can take away up to 19 years of being healthy during a lifetime.
This means that these weight related diseases can greatly reduce the quality of life within a significantly shortened lifetime.
This research only underscored the findings of prior studies such as the one conducted by scientists at the University of Oxford in 2009. They determined that even moderate levels of obesity can be enough to take years off a person’s life. Those researchers found that with moderate obesity, a person can expect to live an average of 3 years less than a slimmer counterpart, while someone with more severe obesity is at risk of living a decade less than someone who is not obese.
That last figure is the equivalent to the amount of time a lifelong smoker will lose as a result of his or her habit. Therefore, it is clear that the obesity epidemic should be taken far more seriously than many of us actually realize. While we, as a society, have started to learn that smoking is dangerous to our lives and the number of smokers is falling, it is evident that we will need to start considering lifestyle factors leading to obesity in a similar way.