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How Europeans defy obesity to live longer

Life expectancy in Europe is increasing despite the obesity epidemic, with people here living longer than those in the US, an analysis of trends over the last 40 years suggests.

The findings published in the International Journal of Epidemiology appear to mitigate concerns that rising life expectancy in high income countries may falter in the face of obesity-related health problems.


Epidemiologist and population health expert Professor David Leon, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, concluded that in the last five years, most European countries have been going in a "positive direction" for the first time in decades -- though the gap between East and West remains.

Professor Leon said: "Despite what many may have assumed, and without being complacent, current trends in European life expectancy are in a positive direction.

"But while the European experience since 1980 underlines the centrality of the social, political and economic determinants of health, many intriguing and important questions remain unanswered about the drivers of these extraordinary trends."

In 2007, average life expectancy in the US was 78 years compared to 80 in Europe.

In 2008, our average life expectancy stood at 80, while Russian men could expect to live to 61.8 and women to 74.2, data from the World Health Organisation and the Human Mortality Database revealed.