How Excess Weight Affects Your Life
A Cure for 30% of all Cancers!
In my column last week I explained how a huge study ignored facts and manipulated numbers to make it appear as if overweight people lived longer than their normal-sized counterparts. The reality is that being overweight, even just a little, can have a giant negative impact on your health.
To understand how much those extra pounds can hurt, you need to look at yourself. Don't compare yourself to your friends. If you think you're OK because you're smaller than the people you hang out with, you're probably wrong.
Sixty-six percent of Americans are either overweight or obese. Chances are good that you or your friends fall into one of those categories, and being the "least overweight of anyone you know" isn't the same as being healthy. Your body doesn't grade on a curve.
Here's what that means in real numbers. If you're a 5' 10" tall man who doesn't work out, and you weigh 206 pounds or more, you're technically obese. An inactive woman who's 5' 8" and weighs 195 pounds or more, is also obese.
Researchers at the University of Glasgow in Scotland found that being obese increases your risk of dying from a heart attack by a frightening 60%. And that's AFTER they canceled out the effects of higher cholesterol, elevated blood pressure and other risk factors that come from the excess weight. Unfortunately, a heart attack isn't the only thing you need to worry about.
Having a doctor diagnose cancer can be terrifying, but cancer researchers now know that a significant portion of cancer today is caused by excess weight. A quarter of all pancreatic cancers, a third of all kidney cancers and fully half of all uterine and esophageal cancers are caused by too much fat. Overall, more than 30% of all cancer cases could be prevented if we just slimmed down.
You don't even need to be that big for the risk to appear. According to the American Cancer Society's Eugenia Calle, "With breast, colon and endometrial cancer, you can see an increase in risk at the high end of the normal-weight range compared to the low end, and then the risk increases in an almost linear fashion from the very lean to the very heavy."
Diabetes is another heavyweight killer. Insulin is a hormone that cells burn for energy or store as fat. When you gain weight, your cells get ever-increasing levels of insulin. Eventually, cells develop something called insulin resistance. They're overloaded, which makes the pancreas produce more insulin, further overloading the cells, making the cycle continue. Over time you develop diabetes and dramatically increase your risk of amputations, blindness, heart disease, kidney disease and stroke.
You can do something about it. The Diabetes Prevention Program was a federally funded study that found physical activity and small dietary changes can delay or even prevent type 2 diabetes. If that 206-pound man I mentioned earlier lost just 5-7 percent of his weight, or about 11 to 14 pounds, he can slow and even begin to reverse the development of type 2 diabetes.
Dropping the weight not only reduces your risk of disease but it allows you to more fully enjoy the life you have. I wouldn't mind living to see 100, but not if I was so frail I couldn't get out of bed.
That means on top of the weight loss, you have to work out. Since we naturally lose muscle as we age, it becomes more important to exercise the older we get. Exercise slows the rate of muscle loss. You don't have to spend hours in the gym to make it work. Three 30-minute weight-training sessions and a couple of 30-minute cardio sessions a week have proven to be extremely effective.
(If you can't lose the weight, you should still go to the gym. Scientists at the National Cancer Institute analyzed data from more than 650,000 people and they found that exercising just 2.5 hours a week added almost 3.5 years onto the average subjects life. That was independent of weight loss! So even if you don't lose the weight, working out will still add years to your life.)
You now have all the information you need to prevent 30% of all cancers, cut your heart attack risk by 60% and prevent type 2 diabetes. The question is; what are you going to do about it?
UPDATE: 11/1/2017 - Slow but Steady Weight GAIN can be a Killer
In a study released by the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, researchers found even a modest amount of weight gain, from early adulthood to middle age, can significantly impact health.
The health records and weight of 118,140 men and women were analyzed over approximately 34 years. Over that time, subjects put on an average of 1-2 pounds each year. Unfortunately, the researchers found that just 11 pounds of excess weight put subjects at greater risk of developing major chronic diseases.
Eleven pounds of weight gain increased the risk of cardiovascular disease by 8 percent, high blood pressure by 14 percent and type 2 diabetes by 30 percent. The risk of a premature death increased by 5 percent and the risk of obesity-related cancer was 6 percent higher.
It may not seem like a lot of weight, but that small amount added up to a huge effect. There’s no better time than right now to start focusing on a healthier diet.
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