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Experts said the findings underlined the importance of preventing obesity in the first place.
"If you are on the obesity track early in life, it could get very dangerous by the time you are middle-aged," said Stephan Rossner, an obesity expert at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm. He said it was uncertain if people could regain the health benefits of being thin if they lost weight later in life.
While average life spans have increased in recent years with scientific advances in treating illness, experts warned the obesity epidemic could ultimately undo those gains.
"We know we're extending life span, but we don't know if we're extending healthy survival," Must said. "If one is going to spend the last three decades of one's life with compromised physical and mental function, that may not be the picture of aging we have when we think of living into our 90s."
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