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Death toll from obesity may be FOUR TIMES higher than previously believed

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 19th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The United States definitely has a problem with obesity. Any stroll down any city street will reveal people who are at least 300 to 400 pounds, brought upon the easy availability of low-cost, high calorie food. Now - it's been discovered that the death toll arising from obesity may be as much as FOUR TIMES as high as previously believed.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) -The decades-long trend of life expectancy for Americans may be downgraded as a result, doctors say. Some 18.2 percent of premature deaths in the United States between 1986 and 2006 were associated with excess body mass, according to a team of sociologists led by a Columbia University demographer.

Published online in the American Journal of Public Health, this estimate is far higher than the five percent toll widely cited by researchers. These figures don't even take into account freshly discovered facts about obesity's effects on health, emerging only after the researchers applied a fine-toothed comb approach to examining obesity across the U.S. population.

The study tallied up differences in excess weight status across different gender, ethnic and age groups. They combined that data with existing "mortality risk" statistics to estimate how many Americans over age 40 who died during that 20-year period did so because of weight-related causes.

Obesity has become more widespread across successive waves of American generations, it has the momentum to reduce the average life expectancy of an entire population for many years to come, the study concludes.

Barring dramatic changes, "obesity is going to account for a rising share of mortality," study leader Ryan K. Masters says.

Americans who became overweight or obese as children and remained so into adulthood "have borne the greatest brunt of the obesity epidemic." The evidence suggests that adults born in the 1970s and 1980s will suffer higher premature death rates than have older Americans, he added.

Hopefully, Masters says that some premature deaths could still be prevented by public campaigns or medical therapies that drive down obesity or its effect on health.

The study found that weight-related early mortality had struck American women harder than men, and that African American women had suffered the most. The premature deaths of 21.7 percent of white women between 1986 and 2006 could be attributed in part to excess weight, as could 26.8 percent of early deaths among African American women. Among Caucasian men, 15.6 percent of premature deaths in that period were linked to excess weight. Among black men, the figure was only five percent.

Though African American men have high rates of obesity, they are also more likely than all other groups to die prematurely of other causes, such as injury or violence, Masters noted.

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