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Less Weight for More Life

If you've been thinking about your New Year's resolutions and have put weight loss at the top of your list, take it seriously. A Canadian research team examined the relationship between body weight and life expectancy and calculated that being overweight or obese can steal up to eight years of your life. Worse, they concluded that because those excess pounds often lead to diabetes or cardiovascular disease earlier in life, they could deprive you of nearly two decades of good health. The team used data from 4,000 people included in the 2003 to 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Their lifestyles were used to develop a model estimating the annual risk diabetes and cardiovascular disease pose to individuals, and it revealed how different body weights affect life expectancy and years of healthy life lost. They found that the very obese could lose up to eight years of life, the obese up to six years, and the overweight up to three years. In addition, healthy life-years lost were two to four times higher for overweight and obese individuals compared to those whose weight was healthy. They reported that the worst cases were those individuals who gained weight at early ages. Now the team is looking into how weight loss can affect life expectancy.

My take? Obesity remains a widespread medical problem in the U.S. - one third of adults and 17 percent of children are considered obese, and, as a result, at increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and kidney and gallbladder disease. Obesity may also increase the risk for developing some types of cancer. And it is strongly associated with osteoarthritis and sleep apnea. So it should be no surprise to learn that being overweight or obese can take years off your life, and make the years you do have less enjoyable. The obvious solution is to lose weight - no easy task although we all know what's involved - avoid foods that are high in fat and sugar; eat foods that are low on the glycemic index and, especially, in glycemic load; cut back on alcohol; avoid stress, frustration and boredom; if you're depressed, seek treatment and get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, five times a week. Your health and life are worth the effort.