Nightly News   |  August 15, 2013

Obesity three times more deadly than previously thought

Researchers say obesity is responsible for many more deaths than earlier estimates -- and one gender is more susceptible to its effects than the other. NBC’s Nancy Snyderman reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we're back tonight with some stunning news on america's obesity epidemic. it's now estimated as many as one in five people in this country will die from obesity-related disease. what's significant about that number is that it's three times higher than previous estimates. but, as our chief medical editor dr. nancy snyderman reports, it's never too late to turn things around.

>> reporter: it's the last few days of summer before school starts, and 13-year-old marshall reed is up early getting breakfast ready. on this morning's menu? fresh veggie omelets for his mother and him.

>> eating healthy makes me feel so good that i don't want to go back to my old ways.

>> reporter: marshall has worked hard to control his weight, which is important in light of today's study suggesting obesity causes more deaths than previously recognized. in an eye-opening new report, researchers studied men and women between the ages of 40 to 85 over a 20-year period. they found that obesity was likely responsible for about 18% of deaths during that time, one out of five americans.

>> obesity is going to increasingly shape the mortality levels in the united states as we move forward.

>> reporter: body mass index has increased in every state, especially the southern and midsection of the country. experts worry that will translate into declining life expectancies . obesity is now responsible for more deaths because it's striking at younger ages. the toll from years of being overweight, increased risk of heart disease , diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers. three years ago marshall decided he had to lose weight and wanted to share his journey on youtube.

>> i am doing this because i have a weight problem, and i need to address this weight problem. if i do not address it, something might happen.

>> reporter: marshall wants to inspire other kids and has collaborated with his mother alex on a kid-friendly cookbook. and in the process, he's lost weight, hoping to buck a deadly trend. on top of this study today, the cdc released numbers that obesity rates are are plateauing in adults in some states, but personally i think that's a false sense of security because the rates are already too high in this country. so, for the first time in human history , people aren't dying of starvation. they're dying because we have an overabundance of food not particularly good for us, lester.

>> as i'm watching i got hung up on the life expectxexpectancy. i think we've all been led to believe we're live longer. you're talking about turning that clock back.

>> we are living longer depending on where you live. if you live in some parts of the south, mcdowell, west virginia , we talked about the average age being 65. that rivals some african countries . and we know increasingly that what we eat at 16 can make a difference as to what we look like at 60. so, for instance, if you look at the heart and blood vessels of someone who's already eating foods not good for them, not exercising, how you look on the inside can sometimes be 40, 50 years higher than your chronological age. and that's sobering.

>> big portions, not enough exercise.

>> it's the lethal combination of not enough exercise in schools, communities without sidewalks, food not good for us it's the perfect storm that's going to mean our kids are going to die younger than you and i.

>> hope it's a wake-up call. thank you.

>> you bet.