Study: Being overweight in middle age could reduce your lifespan by up to 5 years
03/08/2023 // Zoey Sky // Views

An alarming study has revealed that being obese in middle age could reduce your lifespan by as much as five years.

Details of the study were published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Obesity, BMI and comorbidities

For the study, researchers followed nearly 30,000 participants for up to 50 years. Their findings showed that people of a healthy weight died aged 82.3, on average.

However, those in the fat category, or people defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of more than 40, lived for only 77.7.

People who were considered only moderately obese, which is almost 50 percent of adults in the U.S. and at least 25 percent of adults in the U.K, lost nearly two years of their lifespan.

Researchers added that there was hardly any difference in life expectancy between those who were overweight or had a BMI of between 25 and 29.

While the research team from Northwestern University in Chicago did not break down deaths by cause, they explained that obese people are more likely to suffer from comorbidities.

The researchers added that being overweight causes inflammation and fatty deposits to develop in the arteries. This then strains the heart and other vital organs. (Related: Weight gain and diabetes risk: Deep belly fat poses more of a health risk to women than men.)

The estimates from the study are less extreme than earlier studies, which revealed that being morbidly obese can cut life expectancy by as much as a decade.

In the current study, scientists gathered medical insurance data from 29,621 participants older than 65 in 2015. They had previously been recruited to a long-term health study in the 1960s and 1970s.


By December 2015, at least 13,000 of the participants had died.

To analyze death rates by weight status, the participants were separated into groups based on their BMI. Results showed that the fatter someone was, the shorter their life expectancy.

According to the data:

  • Severely obese people lived to 77.7.
  • Moderately obese people lived up to 80.8.
  • People who were overweight had an average life of 82.1 years.

The scientists also discovered that participants who were obese and overweight had a greater number of morbidity years or the years they lived in ill health.

Data showed that severely obese people lived 10.32 years in ill health, while obese people lived up to 9.8 years in ill health. Overweight people had 7.22 morbidity years, and people of a healthy weight had 6.1 morbidity years.

Scientists also calculated average excess Medicare costs participants paid per their weight classification. Results showed that obese people paid an average cumulative total of $23,396 more in excess costs compared to someone with a healthy weight.

Overweight people paid an average excess cost of $12,390 more than those with a normal BMI.

Dr. Sadiya Khan, the study's lead author, explained that their findings highlight the impact of obesity on the health and life of people and the cumulative cost of the obesity epidemic to society.

"Resources and strategies are urgently needed at the individual and population level to address the growing public health challenge of excess weight in the context of an aging population," said Khan.

The scientists acknowledged a number of limitations to their study. One is that Medicare data for conditions can be misclassified and could influence the findings. But given the sample size, the overall risk is low.

Also worth noting is that BMI is not used to diagnose obesity for those who are very muscular can have a high BMI without being fat. However, BMI is still accepted as a useful indicator of weight and health for the general population.

Tips that can help you maintain a healthy weight

If you are obese, overweight, or just trying to maintain a healthy weight, try the tips below to improve your overall well-being.

Savor your meals

Take your time while eating.

Eating slowly can help you savor each ingredient, and it can also help prevent overeating because you will be able to tell when you are already full.

Start meal prepping

Set aside time on the weekends to batch-cook your meals for the week.

Doing this can help you save time and money, especially if you buy lunch at work every day or order food for the family frequently.

Get enough sleep

Being sleep-deprived increases ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and decreases leptin, the satisfaction hormone. Both can contribute to weight gain.

When you don't get enough sleep, you crave more salty and sweet foods. Because when you feel more intense hunger, your cravings for higher energy or higher calorie foods intensify.

Visit for more obesity-related stories.

Watch the video below to learn how black cumin seed oil can help support a healthy heart.

This video is from the Health Ranger Store channel on

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Toxic farmed salmon linked to higher risk of diabetes, obesity.

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