Obesity causes more deaths than smoking

Obesity has overtaken smoking as a cause of premature death.
Obesity has overtaken smoking as a cause of premature death.

Obesity now causes more premature deaths than smoking, suggests new research.

In fact obesity is the top cause of preventable life-years lost ahead of diabetes, tobacco use, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, according to the study.

Researchers found that obesity resulted in as much as 47 per cent more life-years lost than tobacco, and tobacco caused similar life-years lost as high blood pressure.

Scientists from the Cleveland Clinic and New York University School of Medicine analysed the contribution of modifiable behavioural risk factors to causes-of-death in the U.S. population, using 2014 data.

Based on the preliminary work, they found the greatest number of preventable life-years lost were due to obesity, followed by diabetes, tobacco use, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

The results highlight the clinical and public health achievement of anti smoking campaigns as tobacco would have topped the list 15 years ago, according to the researchers.

Study lead author Dr Glen Taksler, of Cleveland Clinic, said: "Modifiable behavioural risk factors pose a substantial mortality burden in the United States.

"These preliminary results continue to highlight the importance of weight loss, diabetes management and healthy eating."

He said the findings highlight that three of the top five causes of death - diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol - can be treated.

Dr Taksler said helping patients understand treatment options and approaches can have a "powerful impact" on life-years.

He said the results also highlight the importance of preventive care in clinical practice and why it should be a priority for physicians.

Dr Taksler added: "The reality is, while we may know the proximate cause of a patient's death, for example, breast cancer or heart attack, we don't always know the contributing factors, such as tobacco use, obesity, alcohol and family history.

"For each major cause of death, we identified a root cause to understand whether there was a way a person could have lived longer."

The findings were due to be presented at the Society of General Internal Medicine's annual meeting in Washington, DC.