Obesity and life expectancy

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted April 4, 2005

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Over the next few decades, life expectancy of the average American could decline by as much as five years unless aggressive efforts are made to slow rising rates of obesity, according to an analysis conducted by a team of scientists.

The United States could be facing its first sustained drop in life expectancy in the modern era, the researchers said, but the decline is not inevitable if Americans, particularly younger ones, trim their waistlines or if other health improvements outweigh the impact of obesity.

The new analysis was published in the March 17 New England Journal of Medicine.

Unlike previous life expectancy forecasts, which rely on past mortality trends, the new research bases its prediction on an analysis of body mass indexes and other factors that potentially could affect the health and well-being of the current generation of children and young adults, some of whom began having weight problems early in life.

The researchers said younger Americans likely would face a greater risk of mortality throughout life than previous generations unless steps are taken to curb excessive weight gain.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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