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Alarming Rate of Obesity-Linked Deaths

by: Dr. Gabe Mirkin, M.D.

Being overweight was associated with 20 percent of all deaths among adults from 1986 through 2006 in the United States (Am J Public Health, published online August 15, 2013). The association is higher in women than in men. Excess weight was associated with twenty-seven percent of the deaths of black women, 22 percent of white women, 16 percent of white men and five percent of black men. Black men are not less likely to die from obesity; their lower death rate reflects increased risk for other causes of death such as smoking, HIV, violence and other factors. Being overweight increases death rate more in younger people than in older people.

Thirty-six percent of North Americans are obese, or about 35 pounds over a healthful weight. Obesity markedly increases risk for diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and many cancers, all of which can lead to premature death. Once a person becomes obese, it is very difficult to return to and remain at a normal weight.

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Children of Obese Mothers have Increased Risk for Heart Attacks

Analysis of data from nearly 30,000 women and 40,000 offspring showed that individuals born to obese mothers are at increased risk for premature heart attack death as adults (British Medical Journal, published online August 13, 2013).

Obesity Increases Prostate Cancer Risk and Deaths

Twenty-three prospective studies show a strong association between being obese and risk of prostate cancer, and higher rates of death in men diagnosed with prostate cancer (Urologia Internationalis, August 12, 2013).

Mechanism of Harm from Full Fat Cells

Fat cells produce hormones, just as your thyroid and adrenal glands do. Empty fat cells are relatively inactive, but when they fill up with fat, they produce cytokines that cause inflammation. Your immunity acts as if you are infected with germs and sets out to attack and kill the invading germs. Inflammation is harmful when your immunity is overactive even though it has no germs to attack and kill.

To protect you against germs, your immunity produces:
  • antibodies, proteins that attach to a specific germ and immobilize it,
  • chemicals that dissolve the outer membranes of attacking germs, and
  • white blood cells that eat the dead germs.
If your immunity turns on even though there are no invading germs to kill, the chemicals that dissolve the outer membranes of germs dissolve the inner linings of arteries and start plaques forming in them, which can eventually lead to a heart attack. In a similar manner, an overactive immunity can cause cancer, diabetes and many other diseases.

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