We typically think of smoking as the baddest of all bad habits, but a new study suggests that extreme obesity could be just as unhealthy. In fact, being extremely obese — that is, 100 or more pounds over your healthy weight — could take as many as 10 years off your life. These revelations come out of a new analysis based on studies of more than 900,000 people, mostly from the US and Western Europe, and will be published in an upcoming issue of The Lancet. Researcher Richard Peto of Oxford University equates the danger of extreme obesity to lifelong smoking; it can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
Even people not considered extremely obese are at risk. "Obese" indicates a BMI of 30 or greater, and an estimated one-third of US residents fit into this category. For those people who are about 40 or more pounds overweight, life expectancy could be shortened by as many as three years. In overweight people, every five-point increase in BMI can increase the risk of early death by 30 percent.