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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
- About Us
Drowning in Fat
17 March 2005 (All day)
An explosive rise in obesity may cause life expectancy in the U.S. to level off or decline by 2050, according to a new study.
In the 20th century, U.S. life expectancy climbed from 47 to its present height of mid to late 70's, a rise unprecedented in human history. The fastest part of the increase occurred in the first few decades of the century, as improved sanitation and nutrition dramatically reduced infant and child mortality.
If the new study is correct, the unprecedented rise in life expectancy will be followed by an equally unprecedented fall. A 10-person research team led by S. Jay Olshansky of the University of Illinois, Chicago, and David S. Ludwig of Children's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, examined data from Centers for Disease Control's big National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. "We tried to answer a simple question," says Olshanksy. "What would life expectancy be like in the U.S. if obesity did not exist?"
The researchers found that increasing levels of obesity, especially childhood obesity, has already offset increasing life expectancy "by 0.33 to 0.93 year for white males," with similar offsets for women and other races. Assuming that current trends continue and that no big technical fixes emerge, Olshansky says, "we have strong reason to believe this number will rise rapidly in the coming decades."
Although Olshansky stresses that the estimate is "a first-pass approximation," he believes the effect is large enough to demonstrate "that trends in obesity in younger ages will lead to significantly higher rates of mortality in the future--we will lose 2 to 5 or more years [of life expectancy] in the coming decades" if the obesity epidemic continues unchecked. If the projections—published today in the New England Journal of Medicine--come true, he notes, the next generations will be the first in recorded history to die younger and sicker than their parents--a public-health catastrophe.
That conclusion is likely to be controversial. Critics argue that it is based on a partial reading of the evidence. "Obesity is indeed a problem," says James Vaupel, director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany. "But on the other side there are extraordinary advances being made as a result of biomedical research." Moreover, he says, "the United States has seen a slowdown in life expectancy, but in other countries it's going up fairly rapidly—about 3 months per year in places like France and Japan."
National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey