CBS Local — A new study is pointing to the growing health crisis surrounding obesity in America. Researchers at Boston University say that more than half of all men and women in the country have been obese at some point in their lives.

The study found that 50.8 percent of men and 51.6 percent of women in the U.S. had battled obesity. The researchers also discovered that the chance of Americans developing chronic conditions like diabetes, congestive heart failure, and stroke were higher among people who had been obese at some point.

“The results suggest that a much larger fraction of the population is affected by obesity than is reflected by statistics on current weight status alone,” researchers wrote in their findings. The results reportedly confirmed the link between obesity and the risk of early death. Lead researcher Andrew Stokes and his team countered an argument, known as the “obesity paradox,” which claims that being obese can actually reduce the risk of early death.

Stokes’ team also noted that Americans who had lost the weight were still at an increased risk of chronic disease.

“The results clearly suggest that the formerly obese group is important to consider as a separate entity,” Stokes said. The researchers added that people should be broken up into three groups when studying the obesity epidemic: those who are currently obese, formerly obese, or never obese.

The findings draw a comparison to the health effects smokers deal with even after quitting the habit. The study notes how former smokers are still at risk for disease years after lighting their last cigarette.

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