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May 21, 2014 12:57 PM EDT

Weight Loss Is Beneficial At Any Age

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Weight at any age can improve cardiovascular health, according to a recent study.

New research from British scientists suggests that weight loss at any age in adulthood is worthwhile because it could yield long-term heart and vascular benefits. They found that the longer the exposure to excess body fat (adiposity) in adulthood the greater the cardiovascular-related problems in later life, including increased thickness of the carotid artery walls, raised systolic blood pressure, and increased risk of diabetes.

For the first time, the findings also indicate that adults who drop a body mass index category -- from obese to overweight, or from overweight to normal -- at any time during adult life, even if they regain weight, can reduce these cardiovascular manifestations, researcher said in their study.

 "Our findings suggest that losing weight at any age can result in long-term cardiovascular health benefits, and support public health strategies and lifestyle modifications that help individuals who are overweight or obese to lose weight at all ages," John Deanfield, lead author of the study and professor at the University College London, said in a statement.

For the study, researchers collected data from more than 1,000 men and women from the U.K. Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD). Participants were classified as normal weight, overweight, or obese in childhood and at 36, 43, 53, and 60-64 years of age. 

Cardiovascular phenotyping between the ages of 60 and 64 years with carotid intima media thickness (cIMT; a surrogate marker for cardiovascular events) was used to assess the effect of lifetime exposure to adiposity on cardiovascular risk factors.

"The results of this study affirm a continued emphasis on public health policies that enable lifestyle changes to achieve and, especially, to maintain a healthy BMI," Elizabeth Cespedes and Frank Hu from the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a statement.

The findings were recently published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

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