Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Old age offers no protection from obesity's death grip

06.02.2013
Getting older increases Americans' risk of death from excessive BMI, finds new study, correcting flaw in earlier 'obesity paradox' research

Obesity kills, giving rise to a host of fatal diseases. This much is well known. But when it comes to seniors, a slew of prominent research has reported an "obesity paradox" that says, at age 65 and older, having an elevated BMI won't shorten your lifespan, and may even extend it.

A new study takes another look at the numbers, finding the earlier research flawed. The paradox was a mirage: As obese Americans grow older, in fact, their risk of death climbs.

Ryan Masters, PhD, and Bruce Link, PhD, at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, in collaboration with Daniel Powers, PhD, at the University of Texas published the results online in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The researchers argue that past studies of longevity and obesity were biased due to limitations of the National Health Interview Survey, or NHIS, which provides information on obesity. The survey excludes individuals who are institutionalized, such as in a hospital or nursing home—a group largely made up of seniors. Consequently, the data is overrepresented by older respondents who are healthy, including the relatively healthy obese. What's more, many obese individuals fail to make it to age 65—and thus do not live long enough to participate in studies of older populations.

"Obesity wreaks so much havoc on one's long-term survival capacity that obese adults either don't live long enough to be included in the survey or they are institutionalized and therefore also excluded. In that sense, the survey data doesn't capture the population we're most interested in," says Dr. Masters, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at Columbia's Mailman School and the study's first author.

In his analysis Dr. Masters matched NHIS data on obesity with corresponding records in the National Death Index using data from close to 800,000 adults surveyed between 1986 and 2004. Next he performed statistical adjustments to account for the survey selection biases. The result: risk for death from obesity increases with age.

The finding jibes with countless medical studies that document how obesity takes a cumulative, even compounding toll on the human body. (Exponents of the obesity paradox have explained their counterintuitive results by suggesting that obesity's extra padding protects seniors from fall-related injuries and provides energy reserves during illness.)

"This study should put to rest the notion that it's possible to 'age out' of obesity risk, and provides a powerful counterfactual against those who say concern over obesity is overhyped," says Dr. Link, a professor of Epidemiology and Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School.

Going forward, Dr. Masters has set his sites on another possible reason behind the obesity paradox—that some of the older obese captured in NHIS data only put on extra weight later in life.

"The recent obesity epidemic hit all age groups at the same time, meaning many of the elderly obese only gained their excess weight in the last 10 years or so," Dr. Masters says. "To account for this fact, I will take a page from studies of cigarette smokers by looking at 'life years' to measure how long someone has been obese rather than whether or not they happen to be obese at the time of a single snapshot survey."

Funding was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program. The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Timothy S. Paul | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.columbia.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft

nachricht Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

Im Focus: Fast, convenient & standardized: New lab innovation for automated tissue engineering & drug

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...

Im Focus: Silencing bacteria

HZI researchers pave the way for new agents that render hospital pathogens mute

Pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to common antibiotics to an ever increasing degree. One of the most difficult germs is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Molecular Force Sensors

20.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Producing electricity during flight

20.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

20.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>