A Lesser Known Player in Obesity Epidemic


Obesity Epidemic:

The term ‘obesity epidemic’ is in growth. But if anyone is asked what the term means, there will be no proper reply.

Obesity epidemic is the scenario that the world population is facing today. The rate of obesity has doubled in the last thirty years. The rates of child and adult obesity have tripled. One third of the population is considered obese and another third overweight.

The Overlooked Factor:

In these years, the diet of people around the world has changed a lot. This is clearly visible when the cause of obesity is diagnosed.  But an important fact is overlooked most of the time that also plays an important role in this epidemic.

The fact is cigarette smoking. Smoking is injurious to health as we know well. There’s going on, lots of campaigns to ban smoking. It has been taken as the cause of several diseases like Cancer and a number of other serious illnesses. But a survey shows that smoking was at its peak in 1963 but it drops down to about 63% during the end of 1970 when the obesity epidemic thus began.

The Nicotine Factor:

Smokers, though having a cluster of associate bad habits, look leaner than non smokers. But they, the smokers, also gain weight as soon as they quit the smoking. The reason is the ‘Nicotine’. Nicotine, the active ingredient in a cigarette binds the nicotine acetylcholine receptor, a specific type of receptor on neurons. Acetylcholine is one of the neurotransmitters that neurons use to communicate with one another. Nicotine has the ability to suppress the food intake and increasing energy expenses and also lowers the fatness. The food intake can be reduced along with the weight if the nicotine intake is administered properly.

The Role of Brain:

The act of nicotine on the brain and hypothalamus can be direct or indirect. This portion of the brain regulates the body fatness and food intake.

A current experiment on mice has shown that nicotine affects the food intake primarily via Proopiomelanocortin or POMC cells. This is a type of regulatory neuron in the hypothalamus important for eating and fatness. So when smoking decreases or a person has quit, the power of food intake increases up to an extent. And it’s a known fact overeating leads to obesity.


If we draw a graph on basis of downfall of smoking and the increase of obesity between the period 1960 and 1980, we will see that at the beginning of’60s the smoking is high but obesity is low and during the ‘70s the picture changes, smoking low and obesity high. But it doesn’t mean this article is written to inspire smoking but to show the effect of smoking on obesity. A regulatory diet and regular exercise regime works, it is much healthier than burning the nicotine stick and making you sick in the internal.

A Lesser Known Player in Obesity Epidemic