Does obesity affect smoking status?

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A recent study determined the impact of body mass index, waist circumference, and fat percentage on an individual’s smoking status and level of smoking.

Obesity is a global pandemic, primarily prevalent in developed nations. Due to changes in lifestyle factors over time, certain medical conditions like obesity have prevailed in current society. Research has revealed that several environmental factors including tobacco smoking contribute to changes in weight, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference. In contrast, BMI and waist circumference may also have an impact on smoking habits.

The relationship between smoking habits and obesity requires further research. As a result, a British study published by the BMJ assessed the effect of fat percentage, body mass index, and waist circumference on smoking status and intensity.

Researchers used prior research to identify genetic variants pertaining to adiposity. They extracted smoking data from the UK Biobank which included the following measurements: risk of smoking, both past and present, the age at which smoking started, and the average number of cigarettes smoked daily. The researchers then carried out statistical analyses of the data to determine any correlations between smoking habits and adiposity measurements including waist circumference, fat percentage, and body mass index.

The results revealed that with each increase in BMI, there was a subsequent increase in the risk of smoking status. A replication study confirmed this causal relationship. An increase in BMI also related to an increase in smoking intensity, measured in cigarettes smoked per day, by an average of 0.88 cigarettes. The replication study amplified these results by indicating an increase to 1.27 cigarettes per day with each standard deviation increase in BMI. These causal trends were consistent across waist circumference and body fat percentage data as well.

The study reveals that adiposity may affect smoking behaviour. Due to increased awareness of healthy lifestyle choices, the study provides valuable information for the betterment of global health. A better understanding of the inter-connections between genetic predispositions and environmental factors will aid medical and health professionals to provide guidelines for healthier lives and longer lifespan. This study will allow clinicians to understand the impact of body composition with respect to fat on smoking habits and potentially develop personalized care for patients with exposure to these genetic and environmental factors.

Written by Shrishti Ahuja, HBSc

Reference: Carreras-Torres, R., Johansson, M., Haycock, P. C., Relton, C. L., Smith, G. D., Brennan, P., & Martin, R. M. (2018). Role of obesity in smoking behaviour: Mendelian randomisation study in UK Biobank. Bmj. doi:10.1136/bmj.k1767

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