A Danish study reported at the International Congress on Obesity, suggests that men who are obese by age 20 die eight years earlier on average than non-obese men. The unique feature of this study was that the subjects were followed from their teens until age 80.
The study started with over 5000 military men. Deaths among the 1,930 obese men were contrasted with deaths among a random sample of 3,601 non-obese males. Body mass index (BMI) was measured at the average ages of 20, 35 and 46 years.
A total of 1,191 men died during 60 years of study. At age 70 years, 50 percent of obese men had died but 70 percent of the normal weight men were still living.
Obesity appears to become fixed at a relatively early age. More than 70 percent of the men who started out in the obese category (BMI>30) were still obese at the follow-up examinations. Only 4 percent of men in the normal weight group ever developed obesity during the 60 years of follow up.
The risk of premature death increased steadily by 10 percent for each BMI unit above 25 for men who were overweight or obese.
This study has profound implication for the harmful effects of childhood obesity.