Obese People More Likely To Be Smokers

Leslie Hanson
May 17, 2018

The study carried out by Paul Brennan, a genetic epidemiology expert with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), showed that increased body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage and waist circumference, were associated with high risk of smoking, and with great smoking intensity, measured by the number of cigarettes smoked per day.

"These new results provide intriguing insights into the potential benefits of jointly addressing these risk factors", he said.

The results of the study clarified that the smokers have a lower body weight as compared to that of the non-smokers on an average but they tend to gain excessive weight when they stop smoking.

Although this can happen because of other lifestyle factors such as inactivity in doing physical work or an unhealthy diet, there are possibilities that obesity can highly influence the smoking update and its frequency at the same time.

To better understand these interactions, researchers set out to determine whether genetic markers associated with obesity play a direct (causal) role in smoking behaviour.

He added that the study also suggested that there was possibly a "common biological basis for addictive behaviours, such as nicotine addiction and higher energy intake".


He added that obesity was among the most important preventable causes of those chronic illnesses. They analysed genetic variants with known effects on body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage and waist circumference for almost 450,000 individuals using a technique called Mendelian randomisation.

Analysing genetic information in this way avoids some of the problems that afflict traditional observational studies, making the results less prone to unmeasured (confounding) factors, and therefore more likely to be reliable.

There were three smoking behavior measures assessed namely the current, and the past smoking, the number of cigarettes you are smoking every day, the age in which you began smoking. The average age of study participants was 58 years.

A subanalysis of individuals included in the Tobacco and Genetics (TAG) consortium's database yielded similar results regarding the relationship between a genetically predicted higher BMI and smoking status, with an odds ratio of 1.19 per standard deviation in BMI risk score (95% CI 1.06-1.33, P=0.003) that an individual would be a smoker. Each increase in BMI was also estimated to increase smoking frequency by around one cigarette per day.

For the analysis, the group identified 73, 12, and 44 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that were independently tied to BMI, body fat percentage, and waist circumference, respectively.

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