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Premature Death Linked with Obesity, Overweight is Similar for Blacks and Whites

First Posted: Oct 09, 2014 03:34 AM EDT

In contrast to previous studies, a new research shows that the risk of premature death linked with being overweight or obese is similar for whites and African Americans.

Obesity is one of the common, serious and costly health conditions. According to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over one-third of the U.S. adults are obese. The conditions related to obesity include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. It has been documented earlier that African Americans are more likely to be overweight and obese as compared to their white peers.

Previous studies have earlier revealed that the association between early death and higher body mass index (BMI) is weaker among African Americans. But, the latest study from the American Cancer Society knocks these claims stating the mortality risk associated with being overweight and obese is similar for blacks and whites. They further revealed that among non-smokers without any prevalent disease, being overweight or obese was strongly linked with an increased risk of mortality in every race.

This finding is of significant clinical and public health relevance, given the higher prevalence of overweight and obese individuals among all racial-ethnic population and disproportionately higher rates in African Americans where 35 percent of them are obese.

The finding was based on the analysis of the data retrieved from the Cancer Prevention Study II (CPS-II) that included nearly one million men and women. They addressed various unresolved issues in the study of BMI and mortality.

They observed that underweight men and women were at a higher risk of mortality as were men and women with higher body weight as compared to men and women with normal weight. The association was further altered with factors like smoking habit and prevalent diseases, i.e. strongest link was among those who never smoked and had no prevalent disease (men and women).

In healthy non-smokers, the rate of mortality was lowest within the upper end of the normal BMI category. Weight during mid-age was strongly related to future mortality. The risk of premature death and the risk of other chronic diseases increased with excess body weight.

"While recent large studies have examined the relationship between BMI and all-cause mortality in white and Asian populations in the United States, this relationship has not been well-characterized in African Americans," said study lead Dr. Alpa V. Patel, Ph.D. "The American Cancer Society's Cancer Prevention Study-II is very well-suited to address this issue because of its large size, including nearly a million participants, and long-term follow-up of 28 years, making it the largest study to date in African Americans."

The finding was published in PLOS One.

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