Cigarette smoking increases abdominal and visceral obesity but not overall fatness: an observational study

PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e45815. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0045815. Epub 2012 Sep 24.


Background: Cigarette smoking and obesity are leading public health concerns. Both increase the risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and metabolic abnormalities. This study was conducted to assess the association between cigarette smoking and different types of obesity.

Methodology/principal findings: Two hundred eighty-three visitors to university hospitals located in four main provinces of South Korea were participated. All participants were classified as either current/past or never smokers and were divided into quartiles according to the total pack-years. Body mass index, waist circumference, total body fat percentage, and area of visceral and abdominal subcutaneous fat were measured. These results of each groups were compared. Waist circumference, and visceral fat area showed a J- or U-shaped association with total smoking amount during a lifetime. After restricting the analyses to past/current smokers, we found significant dose-dependent associations of smoking pack-years with abdominal and visceral obesity. Overall obesity measured by body mass index and total body fat percentage did not show such associations. Although current smokers clearly showed significant associations, we could not demonstrate these in past smokers, possibly because of the limited sample size.

Conclusions/significance: Although smokers did not show significant difference in mean body mass index than those who never smoked, they showed more metabolically adverse fat distributions with increasing smoking amounts. This finding suggests that smoking is not beneficial for weight control. Therefore, smoking cessation and avoidance of smoking commencement should be addressed as important public health issues in preventing obesity and related complications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity*
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Humans
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity, Abdominal / etiology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Smoking / adverse effects*

Grant support

SWO was awarded a research grant named “MunSeok fund” by Korean Society for the Study of Obesity (KOSSO). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.