Health knowledge and news provided by doctors.

Obesity Overtakes Smoking as First Health Threat


The obesity epidemic has now taken over the number one spot as the leading cause of preventable disease in the United States. While this has been suspected for some time, data reported in this week’s American Journal of Preventive Medicine, now give evidence that has finally occurred.

“In 2004, the US Surgeon General announced that obesity has overtaken tobacco as the number one public health enemy,” says David Lau, president of Obesity Canada. “I think it’s very timely after the Christmas holiday, when we’ve all put on a few pounds, to be more alerted to the fact that obesity is not something to be dismissed.”

Follow eMaxHealth on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
Please, click to subscribe to our Youtube Channel to be notified about upcoming health and food tips.

Researchers from Columbia University and the City College of New York used data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), the largest ongoing state-based health survey of US adults, which included health information on 3.5 million American adults. Between the years, 1993 and 2008, the proportion of smokers fell by 18.5 percent, while the number of obese people increased by 85%. Obesity, defined as a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30, shortens the lifespan by an average of 12 years.

Because the factors that promote obesity are ingrained in the American culture, such as fast food, lack of physical activity, and current legislation and policy, obesity is also occurring earlier in life, increasing its probability of a reduction of quality years. Recent data shows that teen smoking has declined since 2003.

Dr. Arya Sharma, chairman for obesity research and management at the University of Alberta says that “Health impacts of obesity are, in many ways, much larger than the health impacts of smoking. (Smoking) in the end, is limited to heart disease and cancer.” Obesity causes disability and death from both cardiovascular disease and many types of cancer, and also Type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, peripheral vascular disease, and respiratory illnesses such as asthma and sleep apnea.

Source reference: American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Jia H, Lubetkin EI "Trends in quality-adjusted life-years lost contributed by smoking and obesity" Am J Prev Med 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2009.09.043.