Many Americans have weight problems, and carrying those extra pounds jeopardizes just about every aspect of their health, according to a new study.
It’s nothing new to know that excess weight is often accompanied by health problems, such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease.
But the latest rundown of conditions is stunningly long and diverse, covering 41 topics including asthma, heart failure, high blood pressure, depression, fatigue, osteoarthritis, and stress. The list was compiled by researchers, including Ruth Patterson, PhD, RD, of the Cancer Prevention Research Program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
Patterson and colleagues studied 73,000 people aged 50 to 76 in western Washington state. Based on the responses, the researchers calculated body mass index (BMI) to gauge participants’ total body fat. Among the women, almost 60% were overweight or obese. For the men, nearly 73% were overweight or obese.
Weight-Related Health Problems
Higher BMI was tied to 37 out of 41 health conditions for women and 29 out of 41 for men.
For women, morbid obesity (defined as a BMI of 35 or greater) was shown to be associated with a more than 12-fold risk of diabetes, an almost 12-fold risk of knee replacement, a six-fold risk of heart failure, a fivefold risk of high blood pressure and gallbladder removal, and a fourfold risk of potentially life-threatening clots to the lungs, chronic fatigue/lack of energy, and insomnia.
Morbidly obese men had a similar list. With the strongest associations seen in diabetes (eightfold risk), knee replacement (sixfold), high blood pressure (sixfold), heart failure (fourfold), and fatigue and lack of energy and insomnia (fourfold). Morbidly obese men had slightly lower rates of enlarged prostate.
The group only included older adults, and it’s not known when their weight problems started. Adding a pound or two every year or so may sound harmless, but as the study shows, it all adds up over time.
Some conditions, such as high blood pressure, might be caused by excess weight. Others could be part of a vicious cycle.
“For example, depression may result in weight gain, which can lead to depression,” write the researchers, calling for “effective and practical” ways to prevent weight gain and fight obesity.
By Miranda Hitti, WebMD Medical News, November 2004