Move over, tobacco – there’s a new leading cause of preventable death

Move over, tobacco – there’s a new leading cause of preventable death

Smoking is no longer the leading cause of preventable death in Americans, according to research presented at the 2017 Society of General Internal Medicine Annual Meeting this week.

The new culprit—obesity.

Researchers found that obesity dramatically beat out other leading causes of preventable death, including diabetes, tobacco use, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. After examining how these modifiable risk factors were linked to causes of death, they determined that obesity caused 47 percent more life years lost than tobacco.

Dr. Amar Chadaga, associate program director of internal medicine at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., is not surprised by the news.

“I believe the reason we’ve seen a decrease in tobacco usage is that there is irrefutable evidence that smoking is linked to a myriad of health problems such as lung cancer, bladder cancer, COPD, etc. And with regards to obesity, there seems to be a paradigm out there among folks that eating less will solve the problem,” he says.

Dr. Chadaga believes certain foods like carbohydrates can be as addictive as smoking and have the ability to activate some of the same pleasure centers that smoking does. “The same amount of calories of a carb meal versus a protein meal can produce stark differences in propensity towards obesity. Obviously there is more to the equation like physical activity and fitness, but I think at the heart of the matter is food content.”

A 2015 study determined there are more obese Americans than overweight. Study authors urged an implementation of population-based strategies to prevent and treat obesity. Dr. Chadaga agrees.

“The increase in obesity rates seems to boil down to education about food content. Smoking is quite visceral in that we can almost see the inhalation causing damage, and thus, the literature supports what we already feel. We need to somehow create that same image when it comes to the content of certain foods,” he says.

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  1. Gee. . .

    What a surprise. Another glaring example of the scare tactics and hyperbole used by the medical profession. Whenever a so-called “Number 1” killer loses its position, some other issue rises to the top. The medical “profession” needs to be kept in check.

    • That’s generally how lists work. If one thing isn’t at the top of the list, another thing is. If a sports team loses the number 1 spot, another usually takes that position. This doesn’t mean the sports “profession” needs to be kept in check.

      • Yes, Sandford, mechanically-speaking you are correct. However, sports teams, unlike the medical “profession” do not push agendas that conflict with our rights, freedoms and liberties. Every “Number 1. ..” becomes a campaign for the activists and advocates to champion.

    • Wow this is scary. So we trust the billion dollar activists tobacco and food industry than proven scientific research? What do physicians have to gain? Have you heard the earth is still flat?

  2. If the average person gains 10-15 lbs after quitting smoking it seems this would be an anticipated result

  3. It’s not that difficult, folks.

    As Selena Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) said a few seasons ago in the HBO comedy “Veep”:

    “It ain’t brain surgery, America. You’ve got to get up of your a** & get moving. Put the corn dogs down & shut your yappers… Just do it!!”

    Blunt, but true.

  4. This is just one more example of “blame the patient.” I had been thin and athletic my entire life. I don’t drink sodas, eat junk food or any of the other things that we are supposed to learn to avoid (according to this article). Obese people must be uneducated and not understand what to eat, if we believe what this doctor says (I’m a doctor also). Well, despite my healthy life-style, I was diagnosed a few years ago with breast cancer and am taking drugs that have made me obese. I’ve gone from a BMI of 19 to a BMI of 30 in about 18 months. Now this article says I’m killing myself by being obese. If I don’t take the cancer fighting hormones I’m killing myself by allowing the cancer to return. I’m supposed to be “grateful” for the life-saving treatment I’m receiving, but instead, I’m completely stressed about about the damage I’m doing to myself because of the obesity. I wish they’d make up their minds.

  5. Who says carbs make you fat? We are what we eat. Even a doctor saying they eat well gets overweight. The only people that seem to be the right bmi on average in later age are people in third world countries living on plants.

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.