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...pointed out severe obesity can reduce life by five to 20 years, ''leading some specialists to conclude that life expectancy in the US is likely to level off and may even fall by 2050".
A new study says white Americans with low educational levels have already lost an average of four years from their life expectancy.
That's the loss of 5 per cent of the average lifespan for an American who lacks a high school diploma, and it's happened at astonishing speed - between 1990 and 2008, says the lead investigator for the study, S. Jay Olshansky, a public health professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
It compares to the much-deplored loss of life expectancy in post-Soviet Russia, when the collapse of the state-run system and an epidemic of alcoholism cut seven years from the life of the average Russian.
And the US overall was not doing very well by international comparison to start with. Americans rank 36th in the world for longevity with an average 78.3 years, almost identical to Cubans, who have one-fifth the level of income. Americans live 3½ years less than citizens of the five top-ranked countries - Japan, Hong Kong, Iceland, Switzerland and Australia.
Ageing is typically seen as inevitable, but scientists such as Harvard geneticist David Sinclair, consider ageing a condition that is treatable with medicines, such as plant-compound resveratrol.
Professor Sinclair said: “Our bodies have an extraordinary ability to repair themselves and resveratrol is seemly able to tap into those healing mechanisms. In separate studies, plant-derived compounds have been shown to activate enzymes in mice that trigger their bodies DNA repair process. Those enzymes exist in human bodies too, so the possibility of drugs that slow the ageing process is very likely within our lifetimes.”
"The reasons for the decline remain unclear, but researchers offered possible explanations, including a spike in prescription drug overdoses among young whites, higher rates of smoking among less-educated white women, rising obesity, and a steady increase in the number of the least-educated Americans who lack health insurance," summarises The New York Times' report of the study.