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June 11, 2003

Methods of Estimating Years of Life Lost Due to Obesity

Author Affiliations

Letters Section Editor: Stephen J. Lurie, MD, PhD, Senior Editor.

JAMA. 2003;289(22):2941-2942. doi:10.1001/jama.289.22.2941-a

In Reply: Neither we nor Dr Peeters et al1 estimated the health effects of lifelong obesity. Both studies examined life expectancy, not health effects overall. Both also examined association and thus can only infer effects. Finally, neither group examined associations of lifelong obesity with life span. We examined associations with having a particular BMI level lifelong, whereas Peeters et al examined the association of being obese at a particular time point with longevity, regardless of subsequent obesity status. It seems incorrect to label this lifelong obesity. Indeed, Peeters et al now write that they " . . . aimed to identify the loss of life expectancy associated with obesity at age 40, regardless of future changes in BMI [emphasis added]."