As over 93 million adults and over 13 million children are affected by obesity in the United States, it’s important for consumers to be aware of the risks associated with the condition, while also working to make healthier choices.
While obesity is related to several health risks, a group of researchers from the University of Bristol recently conducted a study to firm up facts surrounding it. The group found that having a higher body mass index (BMI) was associated with a higher risk of mortality, as it can lead to several different types of cancers and cardiovascular disease.
“The findings highlight the need for a global effort to reduce the surging levels of obesity within society and suggest that in most cases, any reduction in body mass index to a normal, healthy level is likely to be beneficial,” said lead researcher Dr. Kaitlin Wade.
Much research has been done in the past regarding different causes and risks that come with obesity, but this group of researchers wanted to focus on the way a person’s DNA lends itself to different obesity-related health risks.
The researchers used Mendelian Randomization -- a method that can help understand certain health risks and outcomes based on variations in DNA. In this study, the researchers were most concerned with obesity’s effect on mortality.
This method allowed the researchers to eliminate any potential statistics that would throw off the results -- and that have thrown off similar studies like this in the past -- including smoking, physical activity, losing weight due to illness, and income level.
To get a wide sampling of participants, the researchers examined data from the UK Biobank -- a health resource with the goal of preventing, diagnosing, and treating a wide variety of illnesses. The Biobank has over 500,000 participants, all of whom are anonymous, ages 40-69, and who had their health and wellness monitored from 2006-2010.
The study found that those with a higher BMI were more likely to die due to cardiovascular disease and various cancers, including esophageal cancer and stomach cancer. An increase in BMI was found to increase chance of death by 16 percent, and death due to cardiovascular disease increased by 61 percent.
Concerns about childhood obesity
Though the participants of this study were all well into adulthood, childhood obesity continues to be a concern for many parents -- as well as a pertinent area of research in the medical community.
A Harvard study conducted earlier this summer evaluated the ways mothers’ healthy habits can affect their child’s likelihood of developing obesity. The researchers found that mothers who practiced five healthy habits -- eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, keeping a healthy body weight, drinking alcohol only in moderation, and not smoking -- were less likely to have children that developed obesity.
Additionally, a recent study found that childhood obesity could be linked to asthma. Because several asthma medications contain corticosteroids, many children that were on an asthma medication had a higher risk of developing obesity. Overall, the study found that children with asthma were 66 percent more likely to develop obesity than children without asthma.