Being overweight at any point in adulthood increases the chance of an early death, warns a major study.
The risk of dying from heart disease, cancer or other health problems rises among those who are overweight or obese – even temporarily – at any point, experts found.
Scientists examined data from 225,000 people aged 25 to 91, analysing their weight history over a period of time, rather than at a single point.
The researchers said this revealed becoming overweight at any stage could have a detrimental impact on health later.
They found that the more weight someone put on, the greater the risk of early death. The study by Harvard School of Public Health and Boston University also undermines the theory that being heavier can be protective for the elderly.
The scientists assessed people in broad age groups, looking at their heaviest weight over a 16-year period and then examining their subsequent health. More than 32,500 participants died during the study.
Those who had a peak body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 30 – classed as overweight – had a 6 per cent increased risk of death from any cause within the next 12 years, they found.
Those classed as obese with a BMI between 30 and 35 had a 24 per cent higher risk of dying in the same time frame. The increased chance of death in the next dozen years was 73 per cent for the ‘severely obese’ with a BMI of more than 35.
In the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, the researchers wrote: ‘The strongest association was observed for cardiovascular disease mortality.’ Among the overweight group, the increased risk of cardiovascular disease death was 21 per cent, soaring to 174 per cent for the severely obese.
The higher risk of dying from cancer varied from 1 per cent to 28 per cent, depending on weight. Senior study author Andrew Stokes, of Boston University, said: ‘Having a history of being overweight or obese is linked to an increased risk for death from any cause.’
Last week, data from NHS Digital showed in England 58 per cent of women and 68 per cent of men are overweight or obese. These are the second highest rates in Europe after Hungary.
The same report revealed a quarter of adults take less than 30 minutes of exercise each week. Official advice is at least 150 minutes to prevent obesity, heart disease and dementia.