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Health Risks for Extremely Obese Women Underestimated

Homogenous interpretations of obesity data downplay risk

WEDNESDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) -- The escalating rate of extreme obesity is worsening the health effects and costs of the U.S. obesity epidemic, according to a study published in the July 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The mortality and cardiac risks of extreme obesity (body mass index of 40 or higher) are greater than those seen in patients who are obese but have a lower body mass index.

Kathleen McTigue, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., of the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues analyzed data from 90,185 women from 40 centers across the United States who were recruited to the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study, and examined incident mortality and cardiovascular outcomes in relation to the women's body mass index, or BMI.

Among women with a normal BMI (below 25) the all-cause mortality rate was 68.39 per 10,000 person-years, versus 84.47 for women in the obesity 1 category (BMI of 30 to 34.9), 102.85 for obesity 2 category women (BMI of 35 to 39.9) and 116.85 for extremely obese women (BMI of 40 or above). Diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia mediated most of the obesity-related mortality and coronary heart disease risk. Among white women, older women were at less risk of weight-related all-cause mortality.

"Considering obesity as a homogenous condition with fixed risk is inappropriate. Weight-related health risk clearly varies with degree of excess weight," the authors conclude. "More accurately assessing weight-related health risk may both improve policy decisions about obesity and assist women in making informed decisions about their health."

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