Obese Obesity kills nearly three times more people than originally thought, according to a study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health published in the American Journal of Public Health.

But a growing number of health concerns linked to obesity has caused researchers to re-evaluate the number of deaths linked to the growing epidemic. Obesity is now believed to be the cause of 18 percent of deaths for black and white adults in the US.

“Obesity has dramatically worse health consequences than some recent reports have led us to believe,” said first author Ryan Masters, PhD, who conducted the research as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, in a press release. “We expect that obesity will be responsible for an increasing share of deaths in the United States and perhaps even lead to declines in U.S. life expectancy.”

Researchers also attributed the growing number of obesity-related deaths to more than just previous underestimates.

“A 5-year-old growing up today is living in an environment where obesity is much more the norm than was the case for a 5-year-old a generation or two ago. Drink sizes are bigger, clothes are bigger, and greater numbers of a child’s peers are obese,” explained co-author Bruce Link, PhD, professor of epidemiology and sociomedical sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, in the press release. “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.”

So what can the 35.7 percent of obese Americans do to live a longer life? In addition to standarddietary changes and physical activity, the CDC recommends that you know your body mass index and how many daily calories you take in.

Do You Live in the Fattest State? Find out here

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