This game plan makes sense to Randall Urban, MD, professor and chair of internal medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
"This is a valuable study, and I think the results raise a lot of questions such as why are people who are obese at age 20 are dying sooner," he says. "We need to break down why they did worse and see how many people develop diabetes or heart disease," he says. Obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes and heart disease.
"This is a fascinating beginning and we really need to dig down further in this group to understand why they are dying earlier," he says.
Such information will help shape more effective prevention strategies. "Obesity is a marker that there will be problems down the road," he says. "In broad strokes, we can say that if obese people change their lifestyle, they will do better, but there may be more to it than this."
George L. Blackburn, MD, PhD, the S. Daniel Abraham Associate Professor of Nutrition and associate director of nutrition at Harvard Medical School in Boston, tells WebMD that this new information may help individuals grasp the consequences of obesity.
"In this day and age, everyone wants to live as long as they can, and we really haven't had the [mortality] card to play before," he says.
"This is another wake-up call," he tells WebMD. "On top of all the problems that the obese have, obesity doubles your risk of death if you are obese at age 20."
Importantly, Blackburn adds, "it is never too late to make healthy changes," he says.