There’s little argument that people with chronic overweight orobesity challenges tend to face related health problems duringtheir lives. Such illnesses as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers havebeen directly tied to excessive weight.

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But what if we could tell someone at age 20, 30 or 40 exactlyhow much being overweight or obese would cost them during theirlifetime? And what if that information would include not justmedical costs, but societal costs as well -- primarily lost wagesdue to lower productivity?

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That’s what a team led by Bruce Y. Lee, Associate Professor ofInternational Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School ofPublic Health, and Executive Director of the Global ObesityPrevention Center set out to do.

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Related: 5 cheap ways to get healthy before you're oldenough to retire

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The team reported its findings in anarticle in Obesity, a research journal published by the ObesitySociety. The premise of the research: that the team could create acomputer model of individuals “born” at certain weights, and thenproject out the cost of obesity or being overweight in terms ofmedical and lost productivity costs.

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The results: the computer modeled individuals could save nearlya year’s wages over a normal life span simply by maintaining a BMIappropriate to their physical stature.

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Writing about the study in Forbes, Lee said: “On average,going from obesity to normal weight, a-20-year old could save a netpresent value of more than $28,000 throughout their lifetime, a40-year-old more than $30,000, a 50-year-old morethan $36,000, a 60-year-old more than $34,000, a70-year-old more than $29,000 and an 80-year-old morethan $16,000. Going from overweight to an ideal weightrange could save more than $10,000 at any age from 20 to 80,peaking at age 60 ($18,604).”

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The key finding of the study may be that at least half, and upto two-thirds, of the cost of added weight can be attributed tolost income. This finding may send obesity research in a newdirection, since to date most of the analysis of the cost of beingoverweight or obese to an individual or health plan sponsor focusedon medical costs.

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“In many cases, productivity losses constituted as high asnearly two-thirds of the costs,” Lee wrote in his op-ed piecein Forbes. “Since we used median wages, if you make much more, thenlosing weight could save you substantially more than the numbers wereported.”

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The study noted that the actual costs of lost productivity tobeing obese or overweight could be much higher than projected bythe study because the model looked at just the most commonweight-related disorders. Joint problems, anxiety and depressionwere not part of the formula, but could have a major impact on thecost, Lee said.

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Another key finding: gradually gaining too much weight extractsa toll on individuals as they age. So addressing early weightgains, perhaps through wellness programs, specific health planfeatures and related incentives, could lead to considerableworkforce savings over time.

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“Our results show the incremental health effects and costs ofgoing from normal weight to overweight to obesity, thusdemonstrating the value of BMI reduction at different ages and howthis changes with increasing patient age; these results could helpwith decision-making in obesity prevention and control,” the studyconcluded.

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