Move over smoking, there’s a bigger health-hazard in our country: Obesity. A new study has found that obesity has now become an equal, if not greater, contributor to disease and shortening of a healthy life in comparison to smoking.
In the study, researchers calculated the Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) lost after surveying participants about a set of questions on health-related quality of life, such as asking about recent poor health days.
The results don’t seem that surprising, given the fact that obesity rates have steadily and significantly increased over the years, as smoking rates have decreased. From 1993 to 2008, when the study data was collected, the proportion of smokers among US adults reportedly declined 18.5 percent while obesity increased 85 percent. Smoking had a bigger impact on deaths while obesity had a bigger impact on illness.
The study is scheduled for publication in the February issue of American Journal of Preventive Medicine: You can read the news story about it here.
When it comes to cancer, obesity plays a key role. AICR estimates that approximately 100,000 cancers occurring in the US every year are caused by excess body fat. Add physical activity and a healthy diet to weight management, and we could prevent about one-third of the most common cancers. AICR does not study smoking, but tobacco use is considered to be responsible for a similar percentage of cancer cases – about one-third.
In the latest issue of Cancer Research Update, AICR’s biweekly email newsletter on the science of cancer prevention, treatment and survival, we asked cancer researchers and educators to answer one, simple question:
What do we know today that we didn’t know just 10 years ago?
Their answers might surprise you – they surprised us. Although epidemiologists, clinicians, basic researchers and health professionals differ on what they believe to be the most important achievement in the past ten years, they agreed on one thing: It’s never been clearer that diet, physical activity and a healthy weight all play an important protective role.
This finding from a study published today is not exactly shocking, but it does suggest that flipping off one of those touching holiday movies every day can help prevent the seemingly inevitable weight gain every year.
Published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, this new study also strengthens AICR’s expert report findings. The report found that sedentary living and watching a lot of TV was linked to weight gain and obesity, which is the big story in cancer lately. AICR estimates found that excess body fat leads to about 100,000 cancers every year in the United States.
Basically, this was a small study that first counted how much TV 36 adults watched. All the participants were overweight or obese. After three weeks, they randomly split the participants into two groups: one group didn’t change their TV habits and the other cut their TV viewing time in half (this was enforced by an electronic lock-out system).
After another three weeks, the researchers found that those who watched less TV burned 119 more calories per day during the three-week lock-out period than the observation period. In comparison, the control group burned 95 fewer calories per day during this three-week period compared to the observation period. Participants were wearing armbands that measured physical activity.
About 100 calories per day is the amount researchers estimate we need to either lose or burn in order to avoid weight gain.
Of course, this was a small study, participants were all overweight and they reported a minimum of 3 hours of daily TV watching per day but still, doing something instead of watching TV – or even while watching TV — is logically one way to avoid weight gain or even lose weight.
If you want to take a quiz to see if you are active enough for good health, click here.
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