Middle-aged people who are severely obese are 50 percent more likely to die early than those with normal weight, a new study says.
In a report presented at the 26th European Congress on Obesity, researchers from Danish pharma company Novo Nordisk discussed how body mass index scores can be used as an indicator of poor health.
They discovered that the higher people's BMI are, the greater their risk for developing serious medical conditions and illnesses.
Health Risks Of High BMI Scores
For most adults, the ideal BMI should be between 18.5 and 24.9, according to the National Health Service.
The British study explores the potential risks associated with this obese BMI range.
The researchers examined health data from more than 2.8 million British adults collected between 2000 and 2018. These were then compared to hospital data to determine what medical conditions these individuals can develop.
The team found that individuals with a BMI of 35 to 40 are nine times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and 12 times more likely to experience sleep apnea, a disorder where a person's breathing repeatedly stops and starts while asleep.
Meanwhile, those with BMI scores of 40 to 45 (severe obesity) have higher risks of developing both conditions. They are 12 times more likely to have type 2 diabetes and 22 times more likely to have sleep apnea.
Severely obese people are also three times more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, heart failure, and abnormal cholesterol levels and fats in the blood known as dyslipidaemia.
Ultimately, those with BMI scores between 40 and 45 are 50 percent more at risk of dying early due to a number of different reasons.
Implications On Public Health
The number of people suffering from obesity around the world has nearly tripled over the past three decades. From the 105 million individuals recorded in 1975, it has grown to 650 million in 2016. The authors of the British study believes their findings could have serious implications on public health.
It is important to note that the research is observational and does not include a classic trial, which would have allowed it to compare the results of one group with those of another.
However, the study does help paint a picture of how "phenomenally high" the rates of medical conditions associated with obesity were in the UK.
Nick Finer, an honorary professor at University College London and researcher at Novo Nordisk, said the findings show the significant impact of obesity on the health of Britons.
"People should know what their BMI is," Finer said. "Those who are overweight or have obesity should be asking their doctors to be assessed for whether they have already developed some of these diseases."
Dr. Katarina Kos, an expert on diabetes and obesity at the University of Exeter, noted how the study's results confirmed the long-suspected link between obesity, disease and early death.
Given the health risks associated with obesity, she said researchers should move away from considering the condition as a lifestyle choice. She urged people to take responsibility of their future health.
"We cannot assume that we get away with it," Kos pointed out. "As this study shows, it may just be a matter of time."