Obesity leading cause of preventable years of life lost

An assessment of 2014 health data conducted by researchers from the Cleveland Clinic and the New York University School of Medicine found obesity to be the top cause of preventable life-years lost. The research was presented at the 2017 Society of General Internal Medicine Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

To generate estimates on the number of life-years lost for modifiable health risk factors, researchers assessed a hypothetical change in mortality for a series of U.S. populations after eliminating a specific risk factor. The team then juxtaposed these results against the mortality of a population that had eliminated all risk factors. Obesity was associated with the most preventable life-years lost among the risk factors assessed with up to 47 percent more life-years lost compared to the third most damaging risk factor, tobacco use. Diabetes was the second most prominent risk factor, followed by high blood pressure and high cholesterol, respectively.

"Modifiable behavioral risk factors pose a substantial mortality burden in the U.S.," said Glen Taksler, PhD, an internal medicine researcher from the Cleveland Clinic and lead author of the study. "These preliminary results continue to highlight the importance of weight loss, diabetes management and healthy eating in the U.S. population."

The study's results also illuminates the success of public health initiatives encouraging smoking cessation, as tobacco use would have topped the list 15 years ago, according to the report.

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