New research shows that obese adults who reach the age of 70 are at nogreater risk of dying than their non-obese counterparts, but they dohave a much greater probability of spending their remaining yearsdisabled. The data supporting this is reported in the August 2005 issueof The Gerontologist (Vol. 45, No. 4).
Previous investigations had focused on the impact of obesity oneither mortality or the onset of disability, but lead author SandraReynolds of the University of South Florida School of Aging Studiessought to consider them together. She was joined on the study byYasuhiko Saito of Japan's Nihon University and Eileen M. Crimmins ofthe Andrus Gerontology Center at the University of Southern California,Los Angeles.
The team defined disability as having difficulty performing oneor more activities of daily living (ADLs), such as walking across aroom, bathing, eating, dressing, toileting, or transferring in or outof bed. Those who could perform all ADLs were considered active.
Using a sample of over 7,000 seniors, they reported statisticalinformation separately by gender. At 70 years old, the men in the groupcould expect to live 12.3 years if they were non-obese and 12.4 if theywere obese. The non-obese men could expect to live 9.8 active years and2.5 disabled years. However, the obese men could only expect to live8.4 active years and 4.0 years with disability.
In the same sample, women aged 70 could expect to live 15.3years if they were non-obese and 15.5 years if they were obese. Thesewomen averaged 10.5 active years and 4.8 disabled years if they werenon-obese, but the obese women only lived 8.1 active years and 7.4disabled years.
This research supports recent assertions by the Centers forDisease Control that prior estimates of obesity's effects on mortalitymay have been over-estimated, since most studies of obesity do notaccount for its lesser effects on death rates at old age.
Support for the project wasprovided by grants from the National Institute on Aging and theUniversity of South Florida Research Council.
The Gerontologist is a refereed publication of The GerontologicalSociety of America, the national organization of professionals in thefield of aging.
The article abstract is available online at http://gerontologist.gerontologyjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/45/4/438.
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