# Study shows obesity adds years to real age

August 13, 1999

Last year, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scientist Dr. June Stevens published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that excess weight boosted the risk of dying prematurely at least until age 75.

"We found no differences in ideal body weight before that age," said Stevens, associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the UNC-CH schools of public health and medicine. "In other words, optimal weight was the same for a 60-year-old as it is for a 30-year-old."

Now, the nutrition expert has a new study of more than 300,000 people pinpointing just how dangerous carrying around extra weight can be.

"Among men and women aged 40 to 50 years, being obese increases the risk of death to that of a person who is 5.9 years older if you are a man and 6.4 years older if you are a women," Stevens said.

"If you are a man in his 70s, and you are obese, you are taking on the death rate of men who are 3.5 years older than you are," she said. "An obese woman in her 70s boosts her risk of premature death by 1.7 years."

A report on the new findings appears in the Aug. 15 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology. Besides Stevens, UNC-CH authors are Dr. Jianwen Cai, assistant professor of biostatistics, statistician Joy L. Wood and postdoctoral fellow Dr. Juhaeri (Note: he does not use a first name); Dr. Michael J. Thun of the American Cancer Society; and Dr. David F. Williamson of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Calculations assumed a body mass index (BMI) -- a measure of weight for height -- of 30 and above as compared to 18.5 to 25, Stevens said. Determined by dividing one's weight in kilograms by one's height in meters squared, a BMI between 18.5 and 25 is considered ideal. A typical female fashion model has a BMI of about 18.

Years of life lost attributable to obesity tended to increase over time but declined slightly for those in their 70s, she said.

"Obviously, the more obese a person is, the more years he or she artificially adds to his or her real age and the greater the chance of dying in any given year," Stevens said.

Researchers analyzed deaths among healthy white women and men who participated in the American Cancer Society's Cancer Prevention Study-I, conducted from 1960 to 1972. A strength of the analysis was the large number of subjects. A weakness was that more recent data would have been preferable.

None of the more than 62,000 men and 262,000 women subjects had ever smoked, was sick or had a history of heart disease, stroke, cancer or recent unintentional weight loss. Those who died in the first year of data collection were excluded, and researchers controlled for age, education, physical activity and alcohol use.

The question of the effect of weight on health among the very oldest people remains difficult to answer, Stevens said. That is because being thin in late life may be a result of and a sometimes subtle sign of declining health. A little extra weight might indicate otherwise good health.

In general, optimal weight for a 5-foot-4-inch woman is between 111 and 128 pounds and for a five-foot-10-inch man, between 133 and 153 pounds, she said. A 5-foot-10-inch man between ages 30 and 44 faces a 20 percent higher risk of death if he weighs 166 pounds than if he is 20 pounds lighter.
-end-
Note: Stevens' office numbers are (919) 962-2756 and 966-1065, home is 967-3609.
E-mail: June_Stevens@unc.edu
Contact: David Williamson, (919) 962-8596.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

## Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.