Excess weight has a dramatic impact on one’s health. Obesity is the second leading cause of
preventable death. Overweight and obesity are known risk factors for diabetes, heart disease,
stroke, hypertension, arthritis, sleep apnea, and some forms of cancer (uterine, breast,
colorectal, kidney, prostate, pancreatic and gallbladder).
Obesity is associated with stress, incontinence, menstrual irregularities, excess facial hair,
increased surgical risk, and psychological disorders such as depression.
The most common medical assessment of obesity is the “body mass index.” or BMI. The BMI
is a calculation of weight that takes height into account.
Epidemiological evidence supports the notion that the BMI associated with the
lowest mortality falls within the range of 18.5–24.9, showing that thinner people
live much longer (Baird 1994; Stevens 2000). The majority of adults in the United
States are overweight (BMI over 25), with an increasing number being medically
classified as obese (BMI over 30). Unfortunately, the trend is increasing. The
prevalence of obesity in the United States has almost doubled compared to the year
1980 (NIH 1998; WHO 1998).
18.5 - 24.9
25.0 - 29.9
30.0 and Above
A study published in the January 8, 2003 issue of the
Journal of the American Medical Association
“years of life lost”
due to people being
According to this study, the optimal BMI (associated with the greatest
longevity) is approximately 23-25 for whites and 23-30 for blacks.
This study made it strikingly clear that the higher BMI measurements
significantly shorten lifespan.
In the January 7, 2003 issue of the
Annals of Internal Medicine
, a study documented large decreases in life expectancy in overweight and obese individuals.
American Heart Association
commented on this study by stating that overweight people lose three years of life expectancy,
while obese individuals die six to seven years prematurely. The authors of the study concluded
that life expectancy seen in the obese are “similar to those seen with smoking”. (This study
also showed that people who smoke and are obese die almost 14 years sooner than normal weight
Weight gain in adulthood is associated with significant increased mortality. In the
Framingham Heart Study
, the risk of death within 26 years increased by 1% for each extra pound increase in weight
between the ages of 30 years and 42 years and by 2% between the ages of 50 years and 62 years
(Solomon et al. 1997; Kopelman 2000). One study found that fat loss was associated with a
decrease in mortality rate (Allison et al. 1999).
BMI is just one of many factors related to developing a chronic disease (such as heart disease,
cancer, or diabetes). Other factors that may be important to look at when assessing your risk for
chronic disease include:
Blood insulin, glucose, cholesterol, C-reactive protein, homocysteine, etc.
Family History of disease