Study: Smoking vs. obesity

Published On: Aug 06 2014 11:27:21 AM EDT
Updated On: Jul 25 2014 11:06:34 AM EDT

Researchers from the National Cancer Institute compared normal weight smokers to extremely obese non-smokers and found that obesity shortens lifespans more than smoking.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

A new study looked at whether smoking or obesity takes more years off a person's life and some may find the results surprising.

Researchers from the National Cancer Institute found that smokers actually live longer on average, than people dealing with obesity. They compared normal weight smokers to extremely obese non-smokers and found that obesity shortens life spans more than smoking.

When we asked people in Jacksonville about which is worse, people first thought smoking was the worst of the two, but then weren't surprised when they learned that's not necessarily the case.

"My first thoughts when I think of it is smoking," Rhonda Shaw said. "But then as you really think about it, obesity really takes a lot of lives too because it hurts so many organs of your body. They can all shut down, so maybe obesity would be worse."

Shaw has it right, both smoking and obesity have negative effects to your body, but when it comes to which one shortens your life more, it's obesity.

The study by the PLOS Medicine Journal looked at more than 9,500 extremely obese adults and more than 300,000 people with a normal BMI.

The study found that healthy weight smokers lost about nine years of their lives.

Non-smoking adults who were extremely obese, defined as having a BMI of 55 to 55.9, lost nearly 14 years on average.

UF Health Registered Dietician Sally Young says although obesity takes more years off your life, that and smoking both lead to many health problems that make life harder.

"They both cause extreme inflammation in your body which makes things in life hard to do anyway," Young said. "So if you're already a smoker it's hard to get out and exercise for longer periods of time, sometimes even hard to do simple tasks throughout the day."

Researchers said these findings show the need to create more ways to fight obesity and spread awareness on just how dangerous it is.

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