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Obesity and Cigarette Smoke: A Dangerous Combination

Update Date: Sep 11, 2013 11:17 AM EDT

Due to several studies conducted in past decades, researchers know that obesity and smoking lead to many health conditions that can cause premature deaths. Since the majority of the research had found mounting evidence of negative effects for both factors separately, a new study decided to examine the effects of being obese and an avid smoker. The researchers concluded, unsurprisingly that people who are obese and smoke cigarettes have even more health problems. The researchers also found that second-hand smoke contributed to poorer health for obese people.

"Our research shows that smoking and obesity together may pose a triple health threat in addition to the increased risks for heart disease, cancer and diabetes," study researcher, Aaron Wright, Ph.D. said. "That dangerous combination impacts key mechanisms by which both the lung and liver perform metabolism. For example, the body's ability to metabolize prescription drugs may be altered in ways that could make standard dosages too high or too low to be effective in obese people who are exposed to tobacco smoke."

In this study, the researchers conducted experiments on mice models in order to understand how obesity and tobacco smoke affect the body. The researchers focused on how cigarette smoke enhances the activity of P450 enzymes. Previous findings have identified the P450 enzymes role in interfering with the body's reaction to prescription medications. In addition, other studies have found that changes in the P450 enzyme activity has been caused by obesity. The combination effect of tobacco smoke and obesity on P450 enzymes has not been studied in depth.

The team used normal and obese mice and exposed them to one of three conditions, which included cigarette smoke, second-hand smoke or no smoke at all. The researchers found that exposure to cigarette smoke did increase P450 enzyme activity. However, whether or not the mice were obese or normal weight did not seem to affect the activity levels. The researchers did find that obesity in combination with cigarette smoke exposure did affect the activity of other enzymes. Obesity appeared to reduce these enzymes' activities by 100 times.

The researchers suggested that a potential side effect of this activity reduction is an increase in lung cancer risk. The researchers explained that obesity appeared to alter the lung's P450 enzymes, which would intensify the cancer-causing effects that arise from the cigarette smoke. The researchers then looked at the effects of second-hand smoke and found that this kind of smoke had an even more pronounced effect on these enzymes. The researchers plan on studying the relationship between smoking and obesity in order to understand the risks involved. In the meantime, the researchers stressed the importance of maintain a normal body weight.  

The study was presented at the 246th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), which is the world's biggest scientific society. The meeting ends on Thursday and involved nearly 7,000 new reports. 

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