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28-03-2011 | Cardiometabolic | Article

Long-term obesity increases mortality risk


Free abstract

MedWire News: The amount of time a person lives with obesity significantly affects their risk for mortality, say researchers.

Reporting in the International Journal of Epidemiology, Asnawi Abdullah (University Muhammadiyah Aceh, Banda Aceh, Indonesia) and colleagues show that, compared with people who were never obese, those who were obese (body mass index [BMI] >30 kg/m2) for between 15 and 25 years of their life doubled their risk for mortality.

In addition, mortality risk was nearly 3-fold higher for individuals who were obese for more than 25 years compared with those who were never obese, they say.

Using data from the Framingham Heart Study, the researchers analyzed the association between obesity duration and risk for mortality (all-cause mortality and mortality due to cardiovascular diseases [CVDs], cancer, and other causes) in 5036 individuals, aged 28-62 years.

The cumulative duration of obesity was calculated for each participant using anthropometric measures taken at 2-yearly intervals from 1948, for approximately 48 years.

In total, 3797 participants died during the follow-up period; 39% due to CVD, 25% to cancer, and 36% to other causes.

The researchers say that 25% of participants were obese at some point during the study. These participants first became obese at an average age of 50 years and remained so for an average of 13 years.

Compared with those who were never obese, individuals who were obese for 1.0-4.9, 5.0-14.9, 15.0-24.9, and ≥25 years had a 1.51-, 1.94-, 2.25-, and 2.52-fold higher risk for all-cause mortality, respectively.

Furthermore, after adjusting for smoking, alcohol consumption, and current BMI, every additional 2 years lived with obesity increased the respective risk for all-cause mortality, CVD, cancer, and other-cause mortality by 6%, 7%, 3%, and 7%.

Abdullah et al predict an increase in the prevalence of obesity in the future, and say that for every 10 years lived with obesity, the risk for all-cause mortality, CVD, and cancer mortality more than doubles. Therefore, they suggest that the mortality risk associated with current obesity might be significantly higher than in previous decades.

"In estimating the future health burden associated with current obesity trends, it [will be] necessary to take the duration of obesity into consideration," concludes the team.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Nikki Withers