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Tuesday, 05 January 2010 20:26

U.S. researchers conclude obesity is as bad as smoking

According to New York researchers in the United States, obesity is becoming more of a problem to people’s quality of life as more people eat larger amounts of food, and smoking is becoming less of a problem as fewer people smoke. Consequently, they claim obesity is equal to, or worse than, smoking in its negative impact on one's quality of life.

U.S. researchers Haomiao Jia (assistant professor of clinical biostatistics [nursing], at Columbia University, New York City) and Erica I. Lubetkin (assistant professor of medicine, at The City College of New York) wrote the summary of their research in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM).

The title of their paper in the February 2010 issue of the journal is “Trends in Quality-Adjusted Life-Years Lost Contributed by Smoking and Obesity” (volume 38, issue 2, February 2010).

The two researchers analyzed data from the 1993-2008 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveiliance System (BRFSS), which is a study of over 3.5 million people based on annual interviews.

The questions asked by the BRFSS included those asking about Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQOL).

The HRQOL measures the effects of chronic illness with respect to its affect on a person’s dailylife. Questions include such factors as number of poor health days, overall physical health, and overall mental health.

The HRQOl provides leeway for the individual to state what he or she considers the particular reason for their particular health problem and to give specific reasons for their quality of life or lack of quality of life.

Page two continues.

The researchers specifically used the measurement quality-adjusted life year (QALY), within HRQOL, to provide a measure of the number of years left in a person’s life as estimated by the positive and negative health factors in that person’s life.

QALY is a measure of how much of a burden a particular disease has on the quality and quantity of life in a person.

It is based on the number of years of life that would be added by intervention. The best possible score is 1.0 (perfect health) and the worst possible score is 0.0 (death).

The New York researchers used this data to analyze whether the lessening of a healthy life in these individuals and an increase in health related problems was due to smoking or obesity.

Within the 1-5-2010 ScienceDaily.com article Obesity Now Poses as Great a Threat to Quality of Life as Smoking, the authors conclude that “… obesity is now equal to, if not greater than, those lost due to smoking – both modifiable risk factors.”

Specifically, the article states, “As the US population becomes increasingly obese while smoking rates continue to decline, obesity has become an equal, if not greater, contributor to the burden of disease and shortening of healthy life in comparison to smoking.”

According to the authors, the percentage of adult smokers in the United States deceased 18.5% from 1993 to 2008.

Page three reveals the large percentage increase of obesity in the United States from 1993 to 2008. The percentage will not surprise you if you have been reading about obesity in the United States and all over the world for that past several years.

At this same time, the percentage of obesity in the United States increased by 85%.

The quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) for adult smokers was relatively unchanged during this period of time—at about 0.0438 QALYs lost per population.

However, for obese adults in the United States, the QALYs lost per population was 0.0464 at the end of this period (in 2008).

The QALYs for obesity was greater than the QALYs for smoking by only 0.0026. (Note: the lower the measure, the worse off of one’s health.)

Thus, the researchers specifically concluded that smoking “… had a bigger impact on deaths while obesity had a bigger impact on illness.”

Drs. Jia and Lubetkin, stated, “Although life expectancy and QALY 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."

Learn more about the dangers of obesity and smoking at the MedicalNewsToday.com article "Obesity overtaking smoking as America's number one killer."

And, learn more about how smoking is decreasing but obesity is increasing in the United States and how the reduction in one (smoking) is being offset by the gains in the other (obesity).

Check out the CNN Health article "Decrease in smoking extends life span, but obesity may curb gains."

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