Weight loss and its economic implications finally quantified

Weight loss has been linked to good health and it is known that maintaining a healthy body weight can lower the risk of several diseases including heart disease, diabetes, cancer etc. Reducing the burden of these diseases can also benefit the society in terms of reducing healthcare costs. However how much does losing weight benefit the community economically has never been estimated before.

Now researchers at Johns Hopkins University have tried to quantify the economic benefits of losing weight to a person and community. Their report was published in the journal .

They found that in terms of classification;

  1. If a person is not obese at 50 years, he or she could save around $36,000

These savings were measured in terms of healthcare costs of the individual and also the loss of productivity due to obesity and weight related ailments.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, over 70 percent of American adults are either overweight or obese. This means that yearly the country spends around $210 billion in medical expenses related to this excess weight say the researchers. Study co-author Bruce Lee urges people to look at the “big picture” and also see what this excess weight is causing in terms of loss of productivity from missed work days rather than the direct medical costs incurred due to excess body weight.  He explained that these productivity losses are linked to businesses that can eventually affect the economies adversely and finally the whole country.

For this study the study authors developed a model that looked at the adults and computed the health changes that arise from aging and weight. Health economist Cyril Chang, Ph.D., Lee and his team this model is fairly accurate is making the predictions. He called the amounts cited for a 20 year old a “conservative” estimate. Chang said that it is easy to advise people to eat healthier and move more but more research is necessary to create supports for people so that they can lose the excess weight. He said it is hard to change behavior and the challenge is to make people lose the weight and maintain the healthy weight.

Obesity, Overweight and BMI

Individuals are considered obese when they weigh more than 20% above their ideal weight. Body mass index (BMI) is calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. The currently accepted criteria for overweight is defined as body mass index (BMI) levels greater than 25 kg/m2 and obesity as BMI of 30 kg/m2.

Another measure is the percentages of body fat. In men minimal fat is 5% while in women it is 8%. Above average body fat in men is between 16 and 25% and among women is between 24 and 32%. Percentage of fat over 25% in men and 32% in women defines risk of disease.

Source: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.21965/full

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