… and more deadly than previously thought
According to a recent NBC News report Obesity kills far more Americans than we previously thought.
A new study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, suggests obesity accounts of about 18 percent of all deaths in the United States, which is three times higher than previous estimates.
The controversy over the findings show how difficult it is to calculate the costs of being overweight. With a third of Americans overweight and another 35 percent obese, it’s not a trivial question.
But Ryan Masters, who did the latest study while at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Columbia University, says he’s found obesity is the cause of 20 percent of deaths among women and 15 percent of men.
“We found that obesity indeed has a quite significant effect on mortality levels in the United States and estimates are actually significantly larger than prevailing wisdom has suggested,” Masters told NBC News.
“What we find is that between the ages of 40 and 85 … about 18 percent of all deaths that took place between 1986 and 2006 could be said to be associated with high body mass.”
Masters thinks this may get worse. There’s now a whole generation of Americans who have been obese from childhood and will be obese their whole lives. The effects on them may be much worse, he predicts.
“People who are overweight or obese are far more likely than thinner people to have heart disease, cancer, diabetes and to have strokes or heart attacks. Usually, but not always, fatter people are less fit than thinner people, and exercise can clearly protect you from death and disease.”
People who are obese are more likely to smoke than people who are not, Thorpe says, and they eat more unhealthful foods.
Other studies have found that the more educated people are, the less likely they are to be obese and the more they earn the thinner they are. A third of American adults who earn less than $15,000 per year are obese, compared with about a quarter of those who earn at least $50,000 per year, the non-profit Trust for America’s Health found in its ‘F as in Fat’ report last year.
Jeff Levi, of F as in Fat, stated that, “Although it is important to distinguish between whether being fat causes death, or whether it’s just correlated with death.. Either way, it’s bad. “Whatever the disagreements among researchers, we know that obesity is not good for your health!”
This year’s report finds Louisiana has passed Mississippi for the dubious distinction of being the state with the most obese people. It finds rates of adult Americans with a BMI of 40 or higher have grown in the past 30 years from 1.4 percent to 6.3 percent—a 350 percent increase.
“Even if the nation holds steady at the current rates, Baby Boomers—who are aging into obesity-related illnesses—and the rapidly rising numbers of extremely obese Americans are already translating into a cost crisis for the healthcare system and Medicare,” Levi says.
Former Health and Human Services secretary and Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson says this finding demonstrates why Medicare should pay for obesity treatments and why obesity should be classified as a separate disease. He applauds the American Medical Association’s decision to classify Obesity as a Disease.
“If we are going to get a handle on healthcare costs, obesity is front and center,” he said in a telephone interview.
“We simply must stop waiting for people to get sick and then spend infinitely more trying to make them well again,” he added. “Covering obesity is a no-brainer, and we must begin behaving rationally if we are going to come to grips with rising health costs and a population that’s getting sicker.”
15 August 2013
Maggie Fox & Nancy Snyderman,NBC News
published in the American Journal of Public Health