Obesity Poses Same If Not Greater Risks Than Smoking

Researchers at Columbia University and The City College of New York published a study in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that 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. Over that same time, the proportion of obese Americans increased 85 percent, resulting in a QALY 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.

So we have seemed to replace one evil with another. And obesity is more complicated, contributes to a host of chronic conditions impacting lives and the fabric of our health system as well. As the latest season of the Biggest Loser heats up and New Years’s resolutions to lose weight fresh in our mind perhaps it is time to really get serious about getting healthy. It all comes down to self-responsibility.