TIME Obesity

Study: People With Extreme Obesity Die 14 Years Earlier Than Normal

Obese Woman Walks Through Washington
An obese woman is seen on May 8, 2007 in Washington, DC. Chris Jackson—Getty Images

100 extra pounds of weight can be as lethal as cigarettes

Adults who suffer from extreme obesity tend to suffer a range of ailments, from organ failure to cancer, that on average shave 14 years off of the normal lifespan, a new study has found.

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute studied an international sample of 9,500 extremely obese adults, or those who weighed roughly 100 pounds more than their recommended body weight. Compared with healthy adults, the extremely obese population tended to suffer from higher rates of life-threatening illnesses, particularly heart disease, cancer and diabetes. On average the extremely obese lost 14 years of life, matching the loss of life suffered by smokers.

“While once a relatively uncommon condition, the prevalence of class III, or extreme, obesity is on the rise,” the study’s lead author, Cari Kitahara, said in a statement. “Prior to our study, little had been known about the risk of premature death associated with extreme obesity.”

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