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Teen obesity is 'as hazardous as heavy smoking'

By Nigel Praities

Teenage obesity confers the same increase in risk of death as heavy smoking in the young, say researchers.

Their large study found men who were obese in later adolescence had over double the risk of premature death, a similar figure to those who smoked 10 or more cigarettes a day.

The Swedish study looked at 50,000 men aged between 16 and 20 years and followed them for 38 years.

They found they found men with a BMI of over 30 at the start of the study had a 114% increased risk of premature death, compared with men that had a normal weight.

This compared with a 111% increased risk in heavy smokers, compared with non-smokers.

No synergy between the effects of smoking and BMI status on the risk of premature death were seen, but the combination of heavy smoking and obesity was associated with a large excess risk.

Men who were overweight also had a similar risk to less heavy smokers – those who smoked between one and 10 cigarettes a day.

‘The findings indicate that from a mortality perspective targets for young men should be within the non-smoking, normal weight range, and that overweight, obesity, and smoking among adolescents might be good targets for intensified public health initiatives,' the authors concluded.

The study was published early online by the British Medical Journal.

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