Obesity in 50s 'gives you the same health problems as a 75-year-old'

Obesity in your 50s ‘gives you the same health problems as a 75-year-old’, study shows

  • It examined how likely people are to suffer from more than one health problem
  • Already known Obese more likely to get heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer
  • But they can have four or more health conditions by age 55 than thinner people

Obestiy makes you old decades before your time, with seriously overweight 55-year-olds likely to contend with the same health problems experienced by 75-yearolds who are not fat. 

A study by researchers in the UK and Finland examined how likely people are to suffer from more than one health problem at once – so-called multiple morbidity – depending on age and weight. 

While it is recognised that the obese are more likely than their thinner peers to suffer from problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer, the research is the first to quantify how obesity brings forward the age at which people develop health problems. 

‘The proportion of participants of healthy weight with complex multi-morbidity by age 75 was observed by age 55 in participants with obesity,’ according to the study. 

Complex multi-morbidity means four or more health conditions. 

A study by researchers in the UK and Finland examined how likely people are to suffer from more than one health problem at once – so-called multiple morbidity – depending on age and weight (Stock image)

The team looked at a group of 115,000 Finns and found just under 20 per cent of healthy-weight individuals had two identified health problems – termed simple multimorbidity – by the age of 75.

Among those who were obese, that same proportion was reached by 55. Similar trends were seen in a separate study of 500,000 Britons. 

The team added: ‘Compared with participants with healthy weight, people [of the same age] with obesity were at a five times increased risk of simple multi-morbidity and more than 12 times increased risk of complex multi-morbidity.’ 

But the study also found that the effect of obesity on mortality is not as pronounced, meaning the severely overweight are likely to struggle on in poor health for years rather than die decades early. 

In the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, two Israeli medics warned of the costs of increasing numbers of older obese people, resulting in ‘more drug side effects and interactions, adverse events, complications, hospital admissions and disabilities. Unemployment and welfare dependency might also increase’. 

While it is recognised that the obese are more likely than their thinner peers to suffer from problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer, the research is the first to quantify how obesity brings forward the age at which people develop health problems (Stock image)

According to the 2019 Health Survey For England, 28 per cent of adults in the country are classed as obese on the basis of having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more. 

A further 36 per cent are overweight, though not obese. 

But NHS bosses have started softening their language about obesity. 

Official documents no longer refer to ‘obese people’ but instead to people ‘living with obesity’. 

Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said the findings were proof that NHS chiefs need to think again about using softer language. 

He said: ‘Obesity is a medical term, describing when a person has arrived at a position whereby their weight is in danger of triggering diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease, and they might die earlier as a result.’ 

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