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Sep 04, 2014 09:25 AM EDT

Obese Teens More Likely To Take Up Smoking, Study

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Overweight or obese teens are more likely to take up smoking, according to a University of California, Los Angeles study. At the same time, these teens are unlikely to be associated with alcohol or marijuana abuse.

The researchers said that the hypothesis behind smoking helps with weight reduction or appetite suppression is not true. "People who smoke crave fatty foods more," said Christopher N. Ochner, Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

For the study, the researchers collected data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Teenagers in the study were surveyed about their mental and physical health in 1995, 1996 and 2001. Participants also reported their height and weight to determine body mass index (BMI), and were asked about their use of cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana.

The researchers found that high BMI was directly co-related to cigarette smoking in young adulthood. On the other hand, overweight or obese teenagers were less likely to abuse alcohol or marijuana more than those of normal or average weight.

"For overweight or obese adolescents, the increased desire to improve social standing or fit in with others may also increase the probability of engaging in regular cigarette smoking. Cigarettes may also be used because they are thought to suppress appetite and help with weight reduction," lead author H. Isabella Lanza, research associate with the UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs in Los Angeles, said in a press release.

"I think we will see this play out even more in the public arena with a new generation of youth being persuaded to try e-cigarettes and other forms of 'healthier' nicotine products in order to advance their social standing," Lanza said.               

The finding is published in the American Journal of Health Behavior.              

A recent Washington University School of Medicine study found that cigarette smoking lowers obese women's ability to taste fats and sweets, driving them to consume more calories.

"Obese people often crave high-fat foods," Yanina Pepino, assistant professor of medicine, said in a press release. "Our findings suggest that having this intense craving but not perceiving fat and sweetness in food may lead these women to eat more. Since smoking and obesity are risk factors for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, the additional burden of craving more fats and sugars, while not fully tasting them, could be detrimental to health."

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