Does Obesity Age the Body Faster? According to Research, Yes
What Is Obesity?
Obesity is a common medical condition in which a person is carrying too much body fat for their sex and height. The condition is now becoming a worldwide health concern because of prevailing environmental, lifestyle, physiological, and genetic factors. BMI (body mass index) is usually used to indicate if a person is obese or not, and a BMI of 30 or more is indicative of obesity.
How Does Obesity Accelerate Aging?
Due to various supporting research, we can now say that obesity is a form of premature aging. It does not mean that obesity and aging are not the same things, but that obesity can accelerate the aging process because of the domino effect it has on the body. It has effects on almost every system of the body, ranging from the physical to the cellular and the molecular level. Obesity can bring about several chronic diseases that follow the same mechanisms as aging; in other words, obesity-related health problems follow the same pattern as the natural aging process, except obesity accelerates that process.
Obesity puts a person at a higher risk of developing certain diseases that are linked to old age. For example, metabolic, cardiovascular, immune system, cognition, and physical conditions that are typically seen in the older population (60+), are now being seen in younger populations.
Researchers from various studies (like this one published in 2019) found the following effects of obesity and aging resembling each other.
- Weakening of the immune system
- Compromised genomes
- Cognitive 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
Generally as people age, they may develop one or more of the aforementioned conditions; however, with obesity we are now seeing 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 obesity influences genetic levels similar to the effects produced by aging. According to research, obesity has a shortening effect on telomeres. Telomeres are protective caps on the ends of chromosomes, and their length is inversely related to the lifespan of an individual. In other words, telomere length is the marker of biological aging.
With aging, the oxidative stress and inflammatory processes are more commonly occurring in the body, which both cause telomere shortening. The same mechanisms are also caused by obesity to a degree, ultimately resulting in a shortening of telomeres.
Various studies continue to show that having more lean body mass and low to moderate levels of fat mass increases longevity and lifespan. One study published in 2008 stated “…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.”
Research concludes 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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