Here’s a compelling reason to shed those extra pounds: A new study finds that middle-aged people who are obese, or even simply overweight, may face more health problems down the road. For Blacks, the topic of obesity has been a growing concern for decades. Nearly 48 percent of Blacks are clinically obese, according to the American Psychological Association.
The study, of nearly 30,000 men and women, found that the more people weighed around age 40, the greater their odds of chronic health conditions after age 65. And obesity, particularly severe levels, ultimately cut people’s lives short by five years, on average, compared to those who were in the normal-weight range.
“There are serious health consequences to obesity that should not be ignored,” says lead researcher Dr. Sadiya Khan. She is an assistant professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago.
Class III obesity, once known as “morbid obesity,” refers to a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more.
“These patients are at least 100 pounds overweight, and often have conditions like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes,” says Dr. Vance Albaugh, a bariatric surgeon and researcher at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, in Baton Rouge, La.
Those people, Albaugh adds, frequently need help beyond lifestyle changes — including medication or some type of weight-loss surgery. Those procedures alter the digestive tract to limit the amount of food a person can eat and the absorption of calories from food.
But this study shows that while class III obesity in middle age might be the biggest health threat, it is not the only one, Albaugh shares.
The findings show a gradient: Middle-aged people who were overweight fared a little worse in older age than those who were normal-weight, and those with mild obesity did a little worse still.
“That’s not surprising,” Albaugh, who was not involved in the research, says. But it underscores the potential benefits of healthy lifestyle changes for people with the common middle-age spread.
“This suggests you can benefit from losing a small amount of weight, or just stopping yourself from moving into the ‘obese’ category,” Albaugh adds.
That’s not to say weight loss — or more to the point, maintaining weight loss — is easy. The human body is more wired toward