Risk of Death for Obese May Be Declining
New studies report drops in cholesterol, blood pressure, and smoking among obese people
WebMD News Archive
CDC senior epidemiologist David Williamson, PhD, who worked on the study,
says the findings can be considered good news for people with otherwise healthy
lifestyles who can't seem to lose those extra few pounds.
"If you are overweight and your parents lived to their 80s or 90s and
you have no strong risk factors for heart disease or diabetes, it may be that
you can shift your energy and emphasis from weight loss to ensuring that you
are physically active every day and eating a healthy diet," he tells
Using data from the same ongoing nutrition and health study, CDC researchers
also reported a sharp decrease in the rates of three major heart disease risk
factors over the past 40 years, especially among overweight and obese
The declining rates of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking
among obese people was so great, in fact, that researchers concluded that their
levels of risk factors are lower than that of their leaner counterparts three
"Obese people are still at increased risk for various disease outcomes
compared to lean people, but over time this outlook appears to have
improved," researcher Edward W. Gregg, PhD, tells WebMD.
The one heart disease risk factor that did not decline over time, among all
BMI groups, was diabetes. Gregg and colleagues reported a 55% increase in
diabetes over the past four decades.
In an editorial accompanying the two studies, JAMA contributing
editor David H. Mark, MD, MPH, noted that while the two studies are
encouraging, many questions remain unanswered about the impact of obesity on
disease and death.
He tells WebMD that among the most important is the role the obesity
epidemic among America's children will have on future mortality.
"People are becoming obese at younger and younger ages, and we really
don't know the consequences of that in terms of future health," he
A Healthy Weight Is Still Important
By Kathleen Zelman, MPH,
It's certainly great news that the death rate associated with obesity is
less than it was a few years ago -- but don't let this information deter your
weight loss efforts.
There is still plenty of scientific evidence showing that weight loss can
bring important health benefits. You don't have to be model-thin to be healthy,
but losing as little as 5% to 10% of your body weight can help lower blood
pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar and improve your overall health. Another
thing that hasn't changed: being overweight is still associated with chronic
diseases, such as diabetes.
Continuing on your course of healthy eating and regular physical activity
will improve your health while you move toward a lower (and healthier) weight