Obesity May Soon Outpace Smoking as Top Preventable Threat for Non-Smoking Women

The world is seeing a steady decline in tobacco use; however, obesity rates continue to rise. This concerning trend could lead to obesity becoming the most common preventable cause of death. Researchers at the National Human Services Health Scotland conducted a study to investigate this correlation in non-smoking women, and the results suggest that severe obesity may pose a more significant mortality risk than any other factor, including socioeconomic status.

The Study

The study involved 3,600 non-smoking women in a long-term trial to analyze the health risks associated with severe obesity. During a 28-year follow-up, the researchers found that cardiovascular disease led to over half of the deaths that occurred among the participants. Cancer was responsible for 27% of the mortality rate.

Despite smokers typically weighing less than non-smokers, it’s worth mentioning that tobacco use is not a solution for weight loss. Researcher Johan Mackenbach has stated that inequalities in mortality rates persist among non-smokers due to obesity, but these inequalities exist at a much lower level.

Connection Between Obesity and Health Problems

Obesity is a known contributor to a variety of health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer. Keeping the body’s weight within a healthy range is crucial to reduce the risk of developing these potentially life-threatening conditions.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women (source: American Heart Association), and obesity can significantly increase the risk of developing it. This is because excess body fat can result in increased blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and the development of plaque in the arteries—all major contributors to heart disease.

Diabetes is another common health issue facing those who are overweight. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 90% of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight or have obesity. By maintaining a healthy weight and adopting a balanced diet, the risk of developing this debilitating condition can be significantly reduced.

Obesity can also lead to a higher risk of developing certain types of cancers. A recent study by the National Cancer Institute found that obesity is strongly linked to an increased risk of at least 13 different types of cancer. While research is still ongoing to uncover the exact mechanisms behind this connection, it’s clear that maintaining a healthy weight is crucial to reduce cancer risk.

How to Combat Obesity

Combating obesity and maintaining a healthy weight begins with lifestyle changes. This includes adopting a balanced diet and incorporating regular exercise. Here are a few tips to help you fight obesity:

  1. Eat a balanced diet: Make sure to consume a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. Limit the intake of processed and sugary foods, which can lead to weight gain and other health issues.

  2. Exercise regularly: Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week, as recommended by the CDC. Exercise not only helps you maintain a healthy weight but also promotes overall health and well-being.

  3. Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain and other health problems. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

  4. Manage stress: Stress can contribute to weight gain and emotional eating. Develop healthy coping mechanisms, such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises, to help manage stress and keep your weight in check.

  5. Seek professional help: If you’re struggling with weight loss, seek the advice of a healthcare professional or registered dietitian. They can help you develop a personalized plan to achieve a healthy weight and improve overall health.


The potential risk of obesity surpassing smoking as a preventable cause of death is alarming. While we celebrate the decline in tobacco use, it’s crucial to address the rising obesity rates and educate individuals on the importance of maintaining a healthy weight. By making positive lifestyle changes and adopting a balanced diet, you can reduce your risk of developing life-threatening health conditions and improve your overall well-being.