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Overweight Teenagers Have Same Risk Of Premature Death As Smokers

Posted Feb 25 2009 4:50pm

Teenagers who are overweight have as much chance of a premature death as those who are heavy smokers - and the danger is even more prevalent for very fat or obese youngsters.

Teenagers who are deemed to be clinically obese are at a similar risk of an early death as people who puff on more than 10 cigarettes a day. A study that looked at the health of 45,000 men over a period of 38 years revealed that the risks of being overweight from the age of 18 were similar to those who smoked regularly in
reference to dying prematurely from preventable diseases.

The risk of dying even earlier was increased significantly for the men who both smoked and were overweight teenagers compared to men who were in just one of the two categories. However, the study did not reveal a link between smoking and obesity to combine and result in a higher risk when found together.

Martin Neovius of the Karolinksa Institute in Stockholm, who led the study published in the British Medical Journal, said, “It shows the importance of measures to reduce in adolescents. A lot of people are dying from preventable deaths.

“I think we should be looking at what we can learn from the anti-tobacco campaign in terms of obesity. There are some who argue that being overweight – but not clinically obese – is harmless. No, it is not harmless because we found that a being an overweight adolescent is equivalent to smoking up to 10 cigarettes a day.”

The medical definition of being overweight is having a body mass index - found by the ratio of body fat to height and weight - of between 25 and 30, while the definition of obese refers to those with a BMI of over 30. Those who were overweight at the age of 18 increased their risk of an early death by over a third while those who were obese were twice as likely to die early. Early death was also more likely in regular smokers, with heavy smokers doubling the possibility of dying early compared to those who didn’t smoke.

The investigation also found results to show that men who had been dangerously underweight at the age of 18 were also at more risk of an early death, with this risk increasing with smoking.

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