"Obesity causes kidney disease, liver disease and several types of cancer, but the most common way it kills is by causing stroke and, most importantly, heart disease. Obesity causes heart disease by pushing up blood pressure, by interfering with blood cholesterol levels, and by bringing on diabetes," Whitlock said.
People who are moderately obese with a BMI in the 30 to 35 range reduced their life span by two and four years. For those who are severely obese with BMIs between 40 and 45, their life span was reduced by eight to 10 years. That's comparable to the effects of smoking, Whitlock said.
In fact, people whose weight was below normal also died earlier, due mainly to smoking-related diseases, the researchers noted.
"If you are obese and smoke, then, above all else, quit smoking," Whitlock said. "If you are obese and don't smoke, then don't start, and do what you can to avoid further weight gain. By avoiding further weight gain, you may well live a few years longer than you otherwise would do. By quitting smoking, a smoker can expect to gain several extra years of life -- about as many as a severely obese person might gain by shedding half of his or her body weight."
Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine, said this study confirms that the obesity epidemic is "the clear and present danger many of us knew it to be."
The association between BMI and mortality has been challenged in the scientific community, due in part to uncertainty about weight estimates an
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