Obesity butts out smoking

Obesity is now a bigger overall threat to people’s health than smoking, according to results of the longest continuing health study of adults in the United States.

Obesity causes as much or more disease than tobacco, says the study, conducted by researchers from Columbia University and the City College of New York. It adds while smoking rates are starting to decline, obesity now shortens as many or even more healthy lifespans than tobacco use.

“Health impacts of obesity are, in many ways, much larger, than the health impacts of smoking,” said Arya Sharma, chairman for obesity research and management at the University of Alberta. “(Smoking) in the end, is limited to heart disease and cancer.”

The study, conducted over 15 years, was based on interviews with more than 3.5 million people. Between 1993 and 2008, smoking among U.S. adults declined by 18.5 per cent, while the proportion of obese people increased by 85 per cent, the study says.

Overall, smoking caused more deaths but obesity has a greater impact on illness, the researchers said.

There’s nothing to indicate the results of the study aren’t mirrored in the Canadian population, Sharma said.

A study presented in October at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Edmonton said obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are affecting Canadian teens at alarmingly high rates.

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