Is Being Overweight Worse Than Smoking?

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that a 50–year old with diabetes dies six years sooner than someone without the disease. This is in contrast to long–term smoking, which studies show shortens a person’s average lifespan by 10 years. So the short answer to the question is being overweight worse than smoking is usually no.

Participants in this diabetes study were followed on average for 13–1/2 years, and there were more than 123,000 deaths. Overall, death rates from various causes were higher for those with diabetes than those without. Diabetes is a contributing factor in a wide range of diseases and medical conditions. These include heart disease, stroke, hypertension, eye disease, and even breast cancer, liver cancer, and pneumonia. People with diabetes have high blood sugar levels, which can damage nerves and blood vessels.

Diabetes is currently the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and affects about 26 million Americans. It is estimated than more than 1/4 of people with diabetes have yet to be diagnosed with the disease. Type 2 diabetes is the most common kind of the disease in the U.S. With this condition, a person’s body makes too little insulin or cannot use what it does make to regular blood sugar. Type 2 diabetes is tied to obesity.

The study found that those with diabetes had double the risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke, compared to those without the disorder. The study also showed that diabetics had a 25 percent higher risk of dying from cancer and were more likely to die from a variety of illnesses including infections, lung and kidney disease as well as falls. Since diabetics are usually overweight and the disorder can cause loss of feeling in the legs and vision problems, this may explain the higher incidence rate of falls.

One intriguing finding of the study was that diabetics had a higher risk of suicide than those who did not. Research has been conducted linking diabetes with depression. All of these adverse health consequences of diabetes reemphasize the need for people to eat healthy, get the proper nutrition, and exercise.

While smoking is still considered worse for a person’s health than being overweight, the morbidly or super obese face very adverse health consequences. Also, according to recent data released by a team from the Imperial College London, Harvard, and the World Health Organization, obesity rates have nearly doubled worldwide since 1980, which is an alarming trend.