The risk of early death increases as obesity increases.
Obesity is a major cause of early death in women, according to the results of a study published in the British Medical Journal. The study found that lower income women were more likely to be obese and at a higher risk of early death, regardless of other risk factors such as smoking.
The study included more than 3,600 women ages 45 to 64 in Scotland who were followed for 28 years. None of the women had ever smoked. Approximately 43 percent of the women were considered overweight, while 14 percent were moderately obese and 5 percent were severely obese. Lower income women were more likely to be severely obese than those with more financial resources.
During the study period, about half of the women died, with cardiovascular disease (916 women) and cancer (487) being the most common causes of death. Severely obese women had the highest death rates, while women who were not obese had relatively low death rates, regardless of socioeconomic status.
The researchers found that women who had never smoked were much more likely to be overweight or obese than their smoking counterparts. Although smoking is one of the strongest risk factors for death and disease, obesity carries its own set of risks and has been associated with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other illnesses that increase the risk of premature death.
The researchers in this study concluded that obesity—and especially severe obesity—is an important contributor to premature death. If the statistics in this study are any indication, obesity may be socially patterned and related to socioeconomic status—which could result in healthcare inequalities.
If the results of this study sound dismal, the flip side of the story is actually quite optimistic—women who don’t smoke and are not obese have the lowest mortality rates, regardless of socioeconomic status. The takeaway message is clear: prevention works. One of the best ways to stay healthy is by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
 Hart CL, Gruer L, Watt GCM. Cause specific mortality, social position, and obesity among women who had never smoked: 28-year cohort study. British Medical Journal. 2011; 342:d3785
Tags: Nutritional Know-How