Being overweight could shorten your life

And if you're a man you're more at risk of premature death

Being overweight could shorten your life

Image: Gareth Fuller/PA Archive/PA Images

Obesity and excess weight can shorten your life, according to the results of a new study.

Researchers also found that men are at a much higher risk of premature death than women, if they are overweight.

The study, carried out by a global consortium of researchers, pulled together data from 189 studies across five continents and involved 3.9 million people worldwide. 

Researchers looked at body mass index (BMI), which is calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by their height in metres squared. 

This unit of measurement often comes under criticism as it doesn't take into account body composition. Muscle weights more than fat, so incredibly fit people may register in the overweight category despite having a very low percentage of body fat.

However, the results showed that participants with a normal BMI (18.5-25) had the lowest risk of dying before the age of 70. Men were found to have a 19% risk with women at 11%.

The risk of mortality increased significantly throughout the overweight range. For those who were moderately obese (BMI of 30-35) their risk of early death rose to 29.5% for men and 14.6% for women.

"On average, overweight people lose about one year of life expectancy, and moderately obese people lose about three years of life expectancy," said Emanuele Di Angelantonio from Cambridge University, who co-led the research.

“We also found that men who were obese were at much higher risk of premature death than obese women. This is consistent with previous observations that obese men have greater insulin resistance, liver fat levels and diabetes risk than women.”

The data also suggested that the risk of death increases at the other end of the spectrum, for people with lower body masses.