Obese menObesity continues to be a big problem in the United States and a growing problem across the globe, no pun(s) intended. But all kidding aside, highly processed foods, toxins in the environment, and sedentary lifestyles are adding size to midsection and, according to a new study, subtracting years from the average lifespan.

In a recent international study of roughly 4 million men and women, the researchers found that the risk of dying before the age of 70 registered at 19 percent for men and 11 percent for women (measured at normal weight). However, these numbers jumped up to 30 percent and 15 percent, respectively, for mean and women measured to be obese.

“Obesity is second only to smoking as a cause of premature death in America,” explains lead researcher Richard Peto. The professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford goes on to say, “If you could lose about 10 percent of your weight, a woman would knock 10 percent off the risk of dying before she was 70, and for a man it would knock about 20 percent off.”

This study saw the analysis of data collected from nearly 4 million adults between the ages of 20 and 90, taken from 189 previous studies North America, Europe, and other populations. While the researchers included data on people who lived for at least another five years (after the study began), over the course of the study, roughly 40,000 died. The study found, though, that underweight people are also at risk for premature death.

While the evidence is clear, the researchers still do not know who obese men have a greater risk for premature death than obese women.

Accordingly, University of Cambridge lecturer Dr. Emanuele Di Angelantonio notes, “Our study was not able to address this question, but previous observations have suggested that obese men have greater insulin resistance, liver fat levels and diabetes risk than women.”

Of course, the results of this study are still quite preliminary. As such, US National Cancer Institute senior investigator of biostatistics, Barry Graubard, comments that “We still have more work to do to better understand how weight, weight gain, and weight loss influence mortality.”

Obviously, Graubard advises, avoiding obesity has definite advantages for everyone. “In addition,” he says, “we know from other studies that physical activity can reduce mortality risk.”

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 1.3 billion adults across the globe are overweight and roughly 600 million more have obesity. Of course, obesity has been steadily linked with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and stroke.

The results of this study have been published online in the July 13 issue of The Lancet.