It has been predicted that at some point, obesity may surpass smoking as the most common preventable cause of death, since tobacco use is declining and waistlines are expanding.
A team of scientists at the National Human Services Health Scotland conducted a study which may add weight to this global health forecast.
In a long-term trial involving more than 3,600 non-smoking women, researchers found that being severely obese posed a greater risk of mortality than any other factor, including socioeconomic status.
Additionally, the researchers observed that smokers tended to weigh less than non-smokers, but that the finding does not suggest that tobacco use is an acceptable weight loss strategy.
“Inequalities in mortality persist among those who have never smoked, partly because obesity takes over the role of smoking, but they persist at a much lower level, and that is good news for whoever wants to reduce health inequalities,” said researcher Johan Mackenbach.
During a 28-year follow-up, the researchers discovered that cardiovascular disease was responsible for more than half of the deaths that occurred, and cancer accounted for 27 percent of the mortality rate.