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Obesity Now the Leading Cause of Shorter Lifespan, Beats Diabetes and Smoking

Apr 25, 2017 01:11 PM EDT

A new study from the Cleveland Clinic and New York University School of Medicine revealed that obesity has become the leading cause of preventable life-year loss.

The study, presented at the annual meeting of the Society of General Internal Medicine, showed that obesity tops the lists of preventable health conditions that shorten lives, overtaking tobacco and diabetes.

"Modifiable behavioral risk factors pose a substantial mortality burden in the U.S.," said Glen Taksler, Ph.D., internal medicine researcher from Cleveland Clinic and lead author of the study, in a press release. "These preliminary results continue to highlight the importance of weight loss, diabetes management and healthy eating in the U.S. population."

For the study, the researchers analyzed the contribution of modifiable risk factors to cause-of-death in the U.S. using data from 2014. The researchers examined the change of mortalities for a series of hypothetical U.S. populations that each eliminated a single factor. By doing so, the researchers were able to estimate the number of life-years lost to each modifiable behavior.

The researchers found that the greatest number of life-years lost were due to obesity, followed by diabetes, tobacco use, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Obesity was linked with as much as 47 percent more life-years lost than tobacco. On the other hand, tobacco use caused similar life-years lost as high blood pressure.

The researchers also noted that some individuals may have needs that are very different than those of the broader U.S. population. Also, the result of the study should be considered as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Nevertheless, the results still emphasize the importance of preventive care in clinical practice and why physicians should make it their top priority. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 36.5 percent of adults living the United States are suffering from obesity.

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