Price Per Pound: How Much Does It Cost to Carry Additional Adipose?

DECEMBER 15, 2016
McLarson MD

With the holidays upon us, there are feasts. As we gather with loved ones to celebrate, there’s plenty of food. And, for last minute holiday gifts, we have treats. 

OK, so the food, feasts and treats of the holiday season are on the minds and in the mouths of many. Not only is it on our minds, we are "wearing" the additional intake, with Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.

Non-medical family and friends often ask me, "What does it really matter, carrying around a few extra pounds?" Besides the increased wear-and-tear on the joints and propensity for developing osteoarthritis, there are many health concerns:
·      The increased blood pressure as the earliest sign of vascular disease and associated increased risks of vascular events like heart attacks and stroke
·      The increased likelihood of experiencing gastroesophageal reflux/heartburn
·      Increased odds of developing fatty liver disease
·      Increased risk of venous stasis and varicose veins
·      The elevated risk of colon, breast, endometrial and gallbladder cancers
·      Sleep apnea and obesity hypoventilation syndrome and their associated problems
·      The increased risk of gallstones
·      Elevated risk of gout
·      For women, the fertility problems with or without polycystic ovarian syndrome
·      The mental or emotional weight that physical weight brings in the form of depression – aside from those, there really isn't any problem with a little extra weight.

In actuality, there is a price per pound of excess weight carried around per year that come in the form of medical costs of these obesity-related medical problems. A few direct costs include decreased productive and wages, increased sick leave, gasoline for personal automobiles, and increased insurance.
 
One research report identified the direct costs of being just overweight averaging at $478 to $580 per year, with obesity average costs totaling $2933 to $5408 annually, depending on demographics. And that was only direct costs. (Values are adjusted for inflation from 2010 at the time of the report.)
 
Interestingly, the value of one life-year has been estimated to range between $143,200 and $601,214 (again, adjusted for inflation from the reporting studies).  
 
Multiply that by the >5 years average earlier mortality for obese white men or >4 for women, and that is an incredible dollar amount of indirect costs of being obese.
This holiday season, I for one, will not skip out on the food and treats. 


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