Every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of extra weight lowered the odds of healthy survival by 5 percent, according to the study.
"We typically see this struggle not only in middle age but even as teenagers. If you struggle as a teenager, you're going to struggle for the rest of your life," said Eugenio Lopez, a registered nurse with the Texas A&M Health Science Center Coastal Bend Health Education Center in Corpus Christi.
And women may be starting out at a disadvantage, Lopez added.
"We typically see more women than men in diabetes programs. Women outnumber men 4-to-1 or 5-to-1," Lopez said. "They're genetically predisposed to hold more fatty cells than men are."
"The data is following common sense," added Dr. Mitchell Roslin, chief of the bariatric surgery program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "Why do people die? Of cardiovascular disease and cancer, and women die of colon and breast cancer. What has been linked to obesity? Breast cancer, colon cancer and cardiovascular disease."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on healthy aging.
SOURCES: Qi Sun, M.D., Sc.D., research associate, department of nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston; Eugenio Lopez, R.N., Texas A&M Health Science Center Coastal Bend Health Education Center, Corpus Christi; Mitchell Roslin, M.D., chief, bariatric surgery program, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Sept. 30, 2009, BMJ, online
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