• Sweden edition
 
Overweight people die younger: Swedish study

Overweight people die younger: Swedish study

Published: 25 Feb 2009 10:09 GMT+01:00
Updated: 25 Feb 2009 10:09 GMT+01:00

Simply being overweight, but not obese, from an early age boosts the risk of premature death by a third -- as much as smoking up to 10 cigarettes a day, researchers from Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm reported on Wednesday.

People who are clinically obese by the age of 18 more than double that risk, putting themselves in the same danger zone as long-term heavy smokers of normal weight, they found.

And combining the two factors accumulates the risk: an obese heavy smoker, for example, is nearly five times as likely to die prematurely than a non-smoker who is neither too thin nor too fat.

At least a billion people in the world are overweight, and nearly a third of them are obese, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Obesity rates have soared over the last three decades, especially among children.

Earlier studies have shown that being excessively fat shortens lifespan and leads to increased rates of chronic disease such as diabetes and arteriosclerosis.

But researchers have disagreed sharply up to now on whether being above ideal weight without crossing the line to obesity takes years off one's life.

Nor have previous studies directly compared the impact on mortality of smoking and excess weight.

The study designed by Martin Neovius of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm goes a long way to settling the debate, and shows clearly for the first time that being too heavy can be as dangerous as smoking a couple of packs a day.

Neovius and colleagues analysed data for 45,000 men who underwent mandatory military conscription tests in Sweden in 1969 and 1970 at the age of 18.

Data included participants' smoking habits, and their body-mass index (BMI) -- weight in kilogrammes divided by the square of one's height in meters.

A BMI of 25-to-30 indicates being overweight, while above 30 means one is obese. The range of normal weight is 18.5-to-24.9.

The follow up period was, on average, 38 years. During that time, 2,897 subjects died.

The lowest death rate, as expected, was among non-smokers of normal weight. But researchers were surprised to find that being obese carried a greater risk of premature death than being a heavy smoker.

Even more startling, however, were the dangers of being overweight.

"What we show is that for the overweight, there is a significantly increased risk of premature death, similar to smoking one-to-ten cigarettes a day," said Neovius in a phone interview.

Two key studies in the United States -- one at the Center for Disease Control and the famous Nurses' Health Study at Harvard -- had arrived at opposite conclusions on this question.

"Our results confirm the Harvard findings," said Neovius, whose research was published in the British Medical Journal.

The two studies are highly complementary, he added. "We find exactly the same in men as they did in women," erasing any doubts as to possible differences across the sexes.

The Swedish study did find, however, that being severely underweight -- a BMI of under 17 -- carried about the same risk of early death as being overweight or a light smoker.

Policy makers should take note of these results, and increase awareness of the risks related to being too fat, or too thin, Neovius said.

"Anti-smoking campaigns have been very successful. But we don't have any good preventative programmes for overweight and obesity," he said of Sweden, adding that the situation elsewhere is comparable.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right
Today's headlines
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån

In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week

All aboard! We're off to the island of Gotland for our Property of the Week - a home right in the heart of Medieval Visby. Whether you're looking to buy or dying to look - this is the place for you. READ  

Stockholm Pride 2014
Stockholm Pride glides into seventeenth year
Stockholm Pride. Photo: Erik Mårtensson/TT

Stockholm Pride glides into seventeenth year

The largest pride festival in Scandinavia is back for the 17th year in a row. The week promises to be packed with activities - and a glamorous opening gala with Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst. READ  

Preschool teacher arrested for child rape
Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Preschool teacher arrested for child rape

A man has been arrested on the suspicion of raping a child at the preschool where he is employed. READ  

Police arrest 17 people after fatal shooting
Police at the scene. Photo: Niklas Luks/TT

Police arrest 17 people after fatal shooting

Seventeen people were arrested during the early hours of Tuesday after a man was shot dead in central Sweden. Several of the suspects were already known to the police for gang crimes. READ  

Cops find 15kg cocaine stash in woman's car

Cops find 15kg cocaine stash in woman's car

A 35-year-old woman faces charges for aggravated narcotic crimes after police found 15 kilogrammes of unusually high-concentrated cocaine in her car. READ  

Opinion
The top six ways the US and Sweden differ

The top six ways the US and Sweden differ

Back home in the US and with a solid Swedish stint under his belt, contributor Steven Schier has listed what he thinks are the six biggest differences between Sweden and the states. READ  

Swedish expert slams Norway terror alert
Terrorism expert Ranstorp and a policeman in Norway. Photos: TT

Swedish expert slams Norway terror alert

A Swedish terrorism expert has come forward criticizing the way Norway has handled its recent terror threat, saying the day the threat began was a "total problem in intelligence". READ  

Swedish nurse reported for patient 'death wave'

Swedish nurse reported for patient 'death wave'

A nurse in southern Sweden has been reported for abuse at a senior care centre after she allegedly waved to a colleague with the hand of a recently-dead resident. READ  

Pandas Plopp and Polly born in Swedish zoo
Plopp and Polly, the offspring of Pandora the panda. Photo: Kolmården

Pandas Plopp and Polly born in Swedish zoo

A pair of red panda cubs have been born in central Sweden, a wildlife park announced on Monday. READ  

Green Party ranked 'most gay friendly' in Sweden

Green Party ranked 'most gay friendly' in Sweden

The Green Party's views are 88.6 percent "LGBT-friendly", a Swedish LGBT rights group claimed on Monday, making the Greens the most gay-friendly of all Sweden's parliamentary parties. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
People-watching, June 26th - 28th. Get inside Stockholm's hottest nightclubs
Gallery
Top ten Swedish taboos
Society
Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin
Politics
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Society
Swedes voted 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Blog updates

27 July

Approaching Stockholm (Around Sweden in a kayak) »

"I woke up in the comfort of my own little cabin on Eva and Rolf’s boat, it was 7:30am and I was feeling a bit groggy after a couple of beers with all the lovely locals the night before. The previous day had really taken its toll on my body and I was very stiff and..." READ »

 

24 July

Sharing our Pride: Celebrating Love & the LGBT Community! (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"It’s mid- July in Stockholm, and with much of the city on vacation, things can seem a little quiet – the streets, the bus, and the grocery store. One thing that has not paused for a summer break, though, is preparation for Stockholm’s Pride Festival, which will take place from July 28 to August 2...." READ »

 
 
 
Business & Money
Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax
National
Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Society
What's On in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching July 23
National
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
Gallery
People-watching Båstad
Business & Money
Sweden falls to third in global innovation index
Society
Swedish ornithologists keep webcam watch
Photo: Andreas Nordström/Image Bank Sweden
Gallery
Top ten Swedish beach hot spots
Tech
Swedish Wiki vet sets new content record
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån
Lifestyle
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching July 15-16
Photo: Ola Ericson/Image Bank Sweden
Society
What's On in Sweden
Photo: Lisa Mikulski
National
Hope springs eternal for expat pet shop owner
Gallery
Princess Estelle steals limelight at mum's birthday
National
Swedes risk infants' lives by covering up prams
National
Swede runs for office just using Bitcoin funds
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

730
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se