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Obesity Epidemic May Cut Life Spans of Young Adults

Americans becoming overweight much earlier in life than in past generations, study finds

FRIDAY, April 16 (HealthDay News) -- Because Americans are getting heavier at an earlier age and failing to lose the extra pounds for longer, researchers now believe that chronic illness and life expectancy will be worse than previously estimated.

The study authors report that one in five people born between 1966 and 1985 became obese -- a step above merely overweight -- when they were between 20 and 29 years old.

By contrast, those who were born from 1946 to 1955 didn't reach the level of obesity until they were in their 30s. And those who were born between 1936 and 1945 didn't get to that weight category until their 40s, according to the report published in the April 12 issue of the International Journal of Obesity.

"Many people have heard that Americans are getting heavier. But it's very important to understand who the obesity epidemic is affecting," study lead author Dr. Joyce Lee, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Michigan Mott Children's Hospital, said in a news release. "Our research indicates that higher numbers of young and middle-age American adults are becoming obese at younger and younger ages."

In the new federally funded study, the researchers found that blacks and women are especially hard hit by obesity when compared to past generations.

"Black Americans already experience a higher burden of obesity-related diseases, and the obesity trends will likely magnify those racial disparities in health," Lee noted in the news release.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on overweight and obesity.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: University of Michigan Health System, news release, April 2010

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