What Is Obesity?
Obesity is a common medical condition in which a person carries too much body fat for their sex and height.
It is a worldwide health concern because of the environmental, lifestyle, physiological, and genetic factors that contribute to it.
BMI (body mass index) indicates whether a person is obese or not based on height, sex, and weight. A BMI of 30 or more usually indicates obesity (an exception to this may be where the body composition has a high muscle-to-fat ratio, for example, bodybuilders, and athletes).
How Does Obesity Speed up Aging?
Based on supporting research, we can affirmatively say that obesity leads to a form of premature aging.
Excess body fat speeds up the aging process because of the domino effect it has on the body. It affects nearly every part of the body, ranging from the physical to the cellular and molecular levels.
Obesity can bring about chronic diseases that follow similar mechanisms as the aging process; in other words, obesity-related health problems follow the same pattern as the natural aging process, except obesity speeds up that process.
Obesity puts a person at a higher risk of developing certain diseases typically experienced in old age. For example, metabolic, cardiovascular, immune system, cognition, and physical conditions typically seen in older populations (60+) are now showing up in younger people.
Researchers from numerous studies (like this one published in 2019) discovered how the effects of obesity and aging resemble each other.
- Weakening of the immune system
- Compromised genomes
- Cognitive and motor impairment
- Increased predisposition to develop conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and type-2 diabetes
- Higher risk of cancer
- Cardiovascular diseases like hypertension and high cholesterol levels
- Metabolic syndrome
As people age, they are prone to developing one or more of the previously-mentioned conditions.
However, with obesity, we are now witnessing some of these same chronic health conditions developing in young adults (e.g., hypertension, type-2 diabetes, and obesity-related heart problems).
Research studies on how obesity accelerates aging have shown that it influences genetic levels similar to the effects produced by aging.
Obesity and Telomere Shortening
According to research, obesity shortens telomeres, the protective caps on human chromosomes.
The length of the telomere cap is inversely related to the lifespan of an individual. In other words, telomere length is the marker of biological aging.
Oxidative stress and inflammatory processes commonly occur in the body with aging, though obesity can also cause them.
Both aging and obesity will result in telomere shortening.
Numerous studies show that having more lean body mass and low to moderate levels of fat mass increase longevity and lifespan.
One study published in Obesity Facts reported,
“…overweight and obesity seems to be associated with decreased life span in humans. In addition, it was recently shown that modifiable risk factors during the later years of life, including smoking, obesity, and hypertension, are associated not only with lower life expectancy but also with poor health and function during older age.”
Did you know exercise can slow down telomere shortening? Click to learn more.
Researchers conclude that there is a link between obesity and the acceleration of the aging process. However, more studies are needed so we can fully understand how obesity accelerates the aging process.
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The effects of obesity mirror those of aging; https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200225122954.htm
Does Obesity Literally Accelerate Aging?; https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2019/05/does-obesity-literally-accelerate-aging/
Extra Weight May Age You Faster; https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20050603/extra-weight-may-age-you-faster#1
Being overweight ‘ages people’s brains’; https://www.bbc.com/news/health-36975089
Obesity Is a Form of Premature Aging, Scientists Say, And We Need to Rethink It; https://www.sciencealert.com/obesity-is-a-form-of-premature-ageing-scientists-say-and-we-need-to-rethink-it
Obesity Might Accelerate Aging; https://www.lifespan.io/news/obesity-might-accelerate-aging/
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Inflammatory Mechanisms in Atherosclerosis; https://www.intechopen.com/books/atherosclerosis-yesterday-today-and-tomorrow/inflammatory-mechanisms-in-atherosclerosis
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The Cognitive Consequences of Obesity; https://practicalneurology.com/articles/2018-mar-apr/the-cognitive-consequences-of-obesity
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Chapter 16 – Chronic Inflammation and Atherosclerosis; https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128013878000168
Targeting inflammation: A missing link in heart treatments; A novel anti-inflammatory drug may discourage repeat heart attacks.
Can Inflammation Lead To Heart Disease? The Answer: Yes, Absolutely – And Here’s Why