From Puffs to Pounds, Obesity Now as Big a Threat to Health as Smoking

New Research Shows Obesity on the Rise

ATLANTA (January 21, 2010) – New research reveals that America’s obesity epidemic has become as big a threat as smoking when it comes to health-related quality of life.

The study, conducted by researchers from Columbia University and the City College of New York, took place over a span of 15 years and included interviews with more than 3.5 million people. According to the findings, which were published in a recent issue of American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the proportion of smokers fell by 18.5 percent between 1993 and 2008, while the proportion of obese people rose by 85 percent. In addition, researchers found that smoking caused more deaths while obesity had a greater impact on illness.

Based on information from nationwide annual health-related quality-of-life surveys conducted during the same time period, researchers calculated the “quality-adjusted life years” (QALYs) lost due to smoking and obesity. Quality-adjusted life years measure the health gain or loss associated with treatments, diseases or injuries.

Statistics show that about 68 percent of the U.S. population is now obese or overweight. Health professionals urge those wanting to lose weight to consider many factors, including exercise, overall diet and lifestyle changes. But there are some tools to help with weight loss measures.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines, consumers should choose foods and beverages that moderate their intake of sugars. Products sweetened with sucralose (SPLENDA® brand) can help consumers achieve this goal. For example, drinking a can of diet soda instead of a regular soda can save 150 calories a day. Over the course of a year, that daily calorie savings could result in a 15-pound weight loss. Choosing sugar-free chocolate over sugar-sweetened chocolate will save you 50 calories a day – or five pounds – by year’s end.

“Low-calorie sweeteners such as sucralose can be beneficial in terms of weight loss,” said Beth Hubrich, a registered dietitian and executive director of the Calorie Control Council. “By controlling portions, making smart choices and incorporating physical activity into their schedule, people can reach a healthier weight.”