Report: Obesity will reverse life expectancy gains

Discussion in 'Food and nutrition' started by Cathy, Mar 16, 2005.

  1. Cathy

    Cathy Guest

    CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- U.S. life expectancy will fall dramatically in
    coming years because of obesity, a startling shift in a long-running trend
    toward longer lives, researchers contend in a report published Thursday.

    By their calculations -- disputed by skeptics as shaky and overly dire --
    within 50 years obesity likely will shorten the average life span of 77.6
    years by at least two to five years. That's more than the impact of cancer
    or heart disease, said lead author S. Jay Olshansky, a longevity researcher
    at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

    This would reverse the mostly steady increase in American life expectancy
    that has occurred in the past two centuries and would have tremendous
    social and economic consequences that could even inadvertently help "save"
    Social Security, Olshansky and colleagues contend.

    "We think today's younger generation will have shorter and less healthy
    lives than their parents for the first time in modern history unless we
    intervene," Olshansky said.

    Already, the alarming rise in childhood obesity is fueling a new trend that
    has shaved four to nine months off the average U.S. life span, the
    researchers say.

    With obesity affecting at least 15 percent of U.S. school-age children,
    "it's not pie in the sky," Olshansky said. "The children who are extremely
    obese are already here."

    The report appears in the New England Journal of Medicine. In an
    accompanying editorial, University of Pennsylvania demography expert Samuel
    H. Preston calls the projections "excessively gloomy."

    Opposing forecasts, projecting a continued increase in U.S. longevity,
    assume that obesity will continue to worsen, but also account for medical
    advances, Preston said.

    Still, failure to curb obesity "could impede the improvements in longevity
    that are otherwise in store," he said. Americans' current life expectancy
    already trails more than 20 other developed countries.

    Dr. David Ludwig of Children's Hospital Boston, a study co-author, cited
    sobering obesity statistics:


    Two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese; one-third of adults
    qualify as obese.

    Up to 30 percent of U.S. children are overweight, and childhood obesity has
    more than doubled in the past 25 years.

    Childhood diabetes has increased 10-fold in the past 20 years.
    "It's one thing for an adult of 45 or 55 to develop type 2 diabetes and
    then experience the life-threatening complications of that -- kidney
    failure, heart attack, stroke -- in their late 50s or 60s. But for a
    4-year-old or 6-year-old who's obese to develop Type 2 diabetes at 14 or
    16" raises the possibility of devastating complications before reaching age
    30, Ludwig said. "It's really a staggering prospect."

    While national attention is starting to focus on contributors to obesity,
    including the prevalence of fast-food, soft drinks in schools and cuts in
    physical education classes, "what we presently lack is a clear,
    comprehensive national vision for addressing the obesity epidemic," Ludwig
    said.

    The calculations are a stark contrast with Social Security Administration
    forecasts for slow improvement in life expectancy, and with projections
    publicized in 2002 that said the maximum human life span will reach 100 in
    about six decades. In an interview, Olshansky said he hoped the new
    research would play a role in the current discussion about overhauling
    Social Security.

    Critic calls report 'very one-sided'
    James Vaupel, director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
    in Rostock, Germany, and a research scientist at Duke University,
    co-authored the 2002 forecast, based on data from developed nations
    including the United States.

    Vaupel called the new report "very one-sided" and said he doubts that
    obesity will negate the effects of other medical progress in improving
    mortality.

    Emory University health policy expert Dr. Kenneth Thorpe said that while
    obesity is clearly damaging public health and driving up health care
    spending, rising rates aren't enough to resolve Social Security's woes.
    "That's too simplistic," he said.

    Other life expectancy forecasts rely on past mortality trends; the
    Olshansky group used obesity prevalence data and previously published
    estimates of years of life lost from obesity.

    They calculated in reverse, assessing the fall in death rates that would
    occur if all obese Americans had a normal weight. Their estimate shows
    that, if not for obesity, life expectancy at birth should be four to nine
    months higher than the record 77.6 years announced by the government last
    month. That slight gain translates into a loss that will worsen if current
    trends continue, the researchers said.

    Richard Suzman, a researcher at the National Institute on Aging, which
    helped fund the study, said the projections are "possible, but I would say
    unlikely." He said the best approach is to estimate life expectancy using
    historical trends.

    The Center for Consumer Freedom, an advocacy group for the restaurant and
    food industry, which argues the obesity problem has been exaggerated, said
    the paper should be discredited because co-author David Allison has done
    consulting for makers of weight-loss products.

    Allison, a biostatistician at the University of Alabama at Birmingham,
    noted that the journal mentions his financial ties. While the study methods
    are partly based on assumptions, they are also sound, Allison said.

    Obesity researcher Dr. JoAnn Manson said she agrees with the paper's
    message, if not the methods.

    "The calculations that were made may not be perfect," but the emphasis on
    obesity's dangers "should serve as a wake-up call for policy makers and the
    public health community," said Manson, chief of preventive medicine at
    Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital.

    U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin said Wednesday that the report supports his efforts to
    have government regulation of junk food marketing to children.

    If the dim life expectancy forecast doesn't demonstrate a need for action,
    "I don't know what will," the Iowa Democrat said.
     
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  2. I don't know why there is such a kerfuffle over this one - the paper
    was full of related hot debates this morning occasioned by this
    research.

    We all know that being obese will shorten our lives. Its no different
    than being a smoker - it's self imposed, it's hard to kick but no one
    can do it but us, and it results in all kinds of health complications
    that can make us miserable or kill us.

    Why would we be surprised that on the aggregate level a lot of us
    getting fatter (which we already knew) means a shorter average
    lifespan?

    I think we think modern medicine will somehow save us from ourselves,
    so we don't have to take responsibility for our own health...like, I'll
    just lie around like a sloth for 60 years eating cheetos and then
    expect the doctor to be able to reverse the damage of all those years
    of neglect and abuse so I can live to be 90.

    Mary G.
     
  3. Rod Speed

    Rod Speed Guest

    <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]

    >I don't know why there is such a kerfuffle over this one


    Basically because they overstated the case.

    > - the paper was full of related hot debates
    > this morning occasioned by this research.


    The controversy wasnt about the research, it was about the wild
    prediction made, that we would see life national expectancys drop.

    THAT hasnt actually been seen in a single modern first world country.

    > We all know that being obese will shorten our lives. Its no
    > different than being a smoker - it's self imposed, it's hard
    > to kick but no one can do it but us, and it results in all kinds
    > of health complications that can make us miserable or kill us.


    Yes, but its quite a separate matter whether that will actually
    see a drop in the NATIONAL LIFE EXPECTANCY STATS.

    Its more likely it will just see a drop in the rate of increase instead.

    > Why would we be surprised that on the aggregate level a lot of us
    > getting fatter (which we already knew) means a shorter average lifespan?


    Because average lifespans have kept increasing as well for other reasons.

    > I think we think modern medicine will somehow save us from
    > ourselves, so we don't have to take responsibility for our own health...
    > like, I'll just lie around like a sloth for 60 years eating cheetos and
    > then expect the doctor to be able to reverse the damage of all
    > those years of neglect and abuse so I can live to be 90.


    Its much more complicated than that.

    And some essentially if unconsciously decide that they'd rather
    have 60 years as a glutton rather than 90 years of eating lettuce.

    I dont actually know what I would do if I was told that
    I had to stop eating the stuff I like to eat, to potentially
    get a few more years of 'life'. I'd likely tell them to get
    stuffed if that involved eating say just lettuce etc.

    In fact I know I could get a longer life by
    starving myself and I choose not to do that.

    And I am right in the middle of the ideal BMI.
     
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