UK & World News
'Obesity Killing More People Than Thought'
Researchers in the United States say obesity may be killing a lot more people than previously thought.
A 20-year study showed about 18% of deaths were linked to being overweight and obese - far higher than previous estimates of about five per cent.
It also emerged a greater proportion of women than men died as a result of their weight.
More than a quarter of the deaths of black women and more than a fifth of those of white women were related to excess weight.
In contrast, the proportion was just five per cent of black men and 15.6% of white men.
The findings, reported in the American Journal of Public Health, were based on data from a national survey spanning 1986 to 2006.
Study leader Dr Ryan Masters, from Columbia University in New York, said: "Obesity has dramatically worse health consequences than some recent reports have led us to believe.
"We expect that obesity will be responsible for an increasing share of deaths in the United States and perhaps even lead to declines in US life expectancy."
UK obesity rates are lower than in the US - but are not far behind.
In England, the proportion of men and women classified as obese rose from 13% and 16% respectively in 1993 to 24% and 26% in 2011.
Co-author Professor Bruce Link, also from Columbia University, said the toll of disease and death associated with obesity was likely to rise.
"A five-year-old growing up today is living in an environment where obesity is much more the norm than was the case for a five-year-old a generation or two ago," he said.
"Drink sizes are bigger, clothes are bigger, and greater numbers of a child's peers are obese.
"And once someone is obese, it is very difficult to undo. So it stands to reason that we won't see the worst of the epidemic until the current generation of children grows old."