TUESDAY, Oct. 14, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Is obesity more deadly for some races than for others? Prior research had suggested that when blacks become obese, they might be slightly less likely to die early, compared to people of other races of similar weight.
However, a major new study from the American Cancer Society finds no such difference: People with excess pounds who are healthy and have never smoked appear to have a similar risk of dying earlier, regardless of their race.
In the study, researchers led by Alpa Patel of the American Cancer Society tracked statistics from a large cancer study involving more than 1 million people.
Besides the finding on race, the new study found that people who were overweight or obese were at higher risk of dying earlier than people of normal weight. Underweight people also died earlier compared to people of normal weight.
In healthy people who'd never smoked, people on the high side of normal weight were the least likely to die earlier, Patel's team report this month in the journal PLOS One. Also, weight in late middle age seemed to spell more trouble on the mortality front than weight at age 70 or older.
The relationship between weight and risk of an early death "has not been well-characterized in African Americans," Patel noted in a Society news release.
However, the new research "is very well-suited to address this issue because of its large size, including nearly a million participants and long-term follow-up of 28 years, making it the largest study to date in African Americans," she said.
There's more on obesity's effect on health at the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
SOURCE: American Cancer Society, press release, Oct. 8, 2014; PLOS One, Oct. 8, 2014
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