It's well-known that being overweight, and especially being obese, can bring on severe health complications. This is particularly true for heart health, as obesity has been directly associated with worse cardiovascular outcomes, regardless of how healthy a person may otherwise be.
Despite these risks, more Americans and Britons than ever are now obese. Though the young and middle-aged often turn to diets and surgery to lose weight, older persons may feel the time for such action has passed. Now a new study has shown that losing weight can provide significant health benefits at any age.
The study, published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, found that adults of any age who drop weight - from obese to overweight or from overweight to normal - will have a lower risk of severe heart health complications. This holds true even if a person who loses weight gains it back again later.
"Our findings suggest that losing weight at any age can result in long-term cardiovascular health benefits, and support public health strategies and lifestyle modifications that help individuals who are overweight or obese to lose weight at all ages," said John Deanfield, lead author of the study and a professor of cardiology at University College London.
The study looked at over 1200 men and women from the UK Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development. The data on these patients spans more than 60 years, starting in early 1946. In addition to the weight loss finding, the study backed up previous studies that have found exposure to excess body fat increases risks for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Though many of the study subjects lost weight over the years, only around 2% were able to lose weight and keep it off. In a comment on the study included in The Lancet, Elizabeth Cespedes and Frank Hu of the Harvard School of Public Health argue that this shows public health policy should emphasize weight maintenance and weight gain prevention.
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