Hazards of Obesity Now Rival Smoking in U.S.

TUESDAY, Jan. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity now poses as great a threat to Americans' quality of life as smoking, a new study shows.

Researchers at Columbia University and The City College of New York analyzed 1993-2008 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System that included interviews with more than 3.5 million adults. The results showed that the quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) lost to obesity are equal to, or greater than, those lost because of smoking.

From 1993 to 2008, the number of adult smokers decreased 18.5 percent and smoking-related QALYs lost remained relatively stable at 0.0438 QALYs lost per population. Over that same time, the proportion of obese Americans increased 85 percent, resulting in 0.0464 QALYs lost. Obesity had a larger effect on disease, while smoking had a greater impact on deaths, the researchers found.

"Although life expectancy and quality-adjusted life expectancy have increased over time, the increase in the contribution of mortality to QALYs lost from obesity may result in a decline in future life expectancy. Such data are essential in setting targets for reducing modifiable health risks and eliminating health disparities," the researchers wrote.

The study is published in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Another recent study concluded that if both smoking and obesity rates in the United States remain unchanged, life expectancy in the nation will be reduced by almost nine months. That study was published in the Dec. 3 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases outlines the health effects of being overweight.

SOURCE: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, news release, Jan. 5, 2010

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