March 10, 2009 in Features

Smoking as risky as obesity

Karen Kaplan Los Angeles Times
 

Pop quiz for teenagers: Are you more likely to die from smoking more than 10 cigarettes a day or from being obese? According to a study from the British Medical Journal, it’s a tie.

Swedish researchers studied health records of 45,920 men drafted by the Swedish army in 1969-70 at an average age of 18 years, 8 months. Then they consulted Sweden’s national cause of death registry and found that 2,897 had died as of Sept. 1, 2007.

It turned out that compared with having a healthy body mass index of 18.5 to 24.9, being overweight (BMI of 25 to 29.9) increased the risk of death by 35 percent, and being obese (BMI above 30) boosted it by a factor of 2.25. Compared with nonsmokers, light smokers were 55 percent more likely to die and heavy smokers increased their risk of death by a factor of 2.18.

Not surprisingly, those most likely to die were obese heavy smokers – their risk was nearly fivefold higher than for nonsmokers of healthy weight.


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