Obesity and belly fat are likely to increase the risk of early deaths in the Mexican population, according to a study. The study stated the extra fat that gets stored in the midsections can alone be a cause of premature deaths among Hispanic population.

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine – an internal medical journal of American College Of Physicians – on Monday, focused on the association of mortality with abdominal and general adiposity. The authors of the study found that fat stored in the waist circumference is strongly associated with premature deaths.

It is a well-known fact that obesity and overweight can increase the risk of several chronic illnesses, like cardiovascular diseases and cancers, which can eventually lead to early deaths. But this study stated the extra fat stored in the body can alone be a cause of mortality.

The research team said this could be the first study that found a link between obesity and early deaths in the Hispanic population. According to them, previous researchers have found an association between overweight and premature deaths in people belonging to different ethnic groups and different racial.

“However, the studies on which those claims are based had not accounted for the fact that, while obesity makes diabetes and several other chronic diseases more common, these diseases may then result in substantial weight loss, thereby hiding the reason why those diseases arose in the first place,” lead researcher Jonathan Emberson from the University of Oxford in the U.K. said.

In the current research, Emberson and team found the life expectancy of a person is tied to the amount of fat that gets stored in the individual’s body. They said the amount of fat a person carries around his midsection or waist circumstance increases or decreases the individual’s life expectancy.

For the study, the researchers observed a total of 159,755 adults aged 35 and above from five to 14 years. At the beginning of the study, the participants were overweight as they had an average Body Mass Index (BMI) of 28 and they were free from all kinds of chronic illnesses caused due to obesity.

During the study analysis, the research team found that every extra unit of BMI was associated with an increased risk of mortality. The study stated the participants with a five unit increase in BMI at the beginning of the study had a 30 percent greater risk of dying.

The participants who were aged between 40 and 60 years had a 40 percent higher risk of deaths with every extra five units of baseline BMI, the researchers noted. They also said the risk of death was only 24 percent higher in those who were aged between 60 and 74 years at the start of the study.

The research stated the fat that gets stored in the midsection or waist circumference of a person has a major role to play in the individual’s life expectancy. They found that people with 39 inches or 100 centimeters of waist circumference had a 50 percent higher risk of mortality than those with 31 inches or 80 centimeters of waist circumference.

However, the study has its own limitations mainly because the researchers lacked data on the number of participants who had diabetes. High blood sugar is very common in Mexico and it is very common in people with obesity.

“Overweight and obesity are major causes of death in Hispanic populations, just as they are in non-Hispanic populations in America and Europe. Combining a good diet with regular exercise is the best way to maintain a healthy weight,” Emberson told Reuters.

Obese people
In this photo, dated Dec. 1, 2014, people walk along the beach front in Noumea, New Caledonia. Getty Images/AFP/Theo Rouby