Considering the innovations made towards modern medicine, today's adult population should ideally display a healthier track record compared to past generations. However, a team of researchers from the Netherlands are claiming past generations of adults were more "metabolically" healthy than the present generation.

Dubbed the Doetinchem Cohort Study, research dating back to 1987 tracked the change in metabolic risk factors for cardiovascular disease across generational shifts.

A sample population of 6,377 participant's body weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, HDL, were measured over a span of six, 11 and 16 years. Participants were separated by sex than grouped into 10-year age gaps ranging from 20 to 59.

According to the study's results, hypertension, overweight, and obesity have become bigger problems in today's adult generation than years past. One statistic showed that 40 percent of the first generation of males in their 30s was recorded as overweight while the second generation of males in their 30s showed a 12 percent increase in overweight adults.

The study's lead author, Gerben Hulsegge from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, claims obesity will far and above surpass smoking as the main contributor to dwindling life expectancy numbers.

"The findings also mean that, because the prevalence of smoking in high-income countries is decreasing, we are likely to see a shift in non-communicable disease from smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer to obesity-related diseases such as diabetes," Hulsegge stated.

"This decrease in smoking prevalence and improved quality of health care are now important driving forces behind the greater life expectancy of younger generations, and it's likely that in the near future life expectancy will continue to rise — but it's also possible that in the more distant future, as a result of our current trends in obesity, the rate of increase in life expectancy may well slow down, although it's difficult to speculate about that."

The study also yielding interesting results regarding hypertension and HDL levels:

  • Unfavorable (and statistically significant) generation shifts in hypertension in both sexes between every consecutive generation (except for the two most recently born generations of men).
  • Unfavorable generation shifts in diabetes between three of the four generations of men, but not of women.
  • No generation shifts for hypercholesterolemia, although favorable shifts in HDL cholesterol were only observed between the oldest two generations.

The entire study was published in Wednesday's edition of the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology.