A look at millions of people across North America and Europe finds that obesity is nearly three times more deadly for men than it is for women.
Richard Peto, professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford in England puts obesity on par with smoking as a serious health risk.
“Smoking and obesity are the two biggest risks for death in America,” Peto said.
But in America, says Peto, the number of smokers is declining while the number of those who are overweight is increasing.
Peto hasn’t been able to figure out exactly why obese men are at greater risk of dying than women, although other researchers have theorized that overweight men have greater insulin resistance, liver fat levels and diabetes risk than women.
“It’s tough luck being a man, because you’ve got a better chance of dying at middle age anyway,” Peto said.
But, regardless of gender, Peto found both sexes boost their risk of dying by being overweight, even if it’s just a little.
“You find it’s people who are what you call overweight, so there’s a bit of fat around the middle, but not too much – they lose about one year of life on average,” Peto said.
Both sexes, he says can lower their death risk by losing weight.