Since 2014, obesity and excess body fat has been a higher contributor of deaths than smoking in both England and Scotland, a study published in the BioMed Central (BMC) Public Health journal has shown.
The authors, from Glasgow University, analysed data collected between 2003 and 2017 as part of the Health Surveys for England and Scottish Health Surveys of 192,239 adults across England and Scotland. The respondents were 50 years old on average.
The team found that between 2003 and 2017, deaths attributable to smoking decreased from 23.1 per cent to 19.4 per cent.
In the same period, deaths attributed to obesity and excess body fat rose from 17.9 per cent to 23.1 per cent, with the overtake occurring in 2014.
Jill Pell, who was one of the authors of the article, said: "For several decades smoking has been a major target of public health interventions as it is a leading cause of avoidable deaths.
"As a result, the prevalence of smoking has fallen in the UK. At the same time the prevalence of obesity has increased.
"Our research indicates that, since 2014, obesity and excess body fat may have contributed to more deaths in England and Scotland than smoking."
However, the researchers found that while obesity was likely to cause more deaths in older adults, smoking was still more likely to contribute to deaths in younger adults.
The data showed that among those aged 65 and over and 45-64 respectively, obesity and excess body fat contributed to 3.5 per cent and 3.4 per cent more estimated deaths than smoking in 2017.
However, in the 16-44 age group, smoking was still 2.4 per cent more likely to have contributed to deaths than obesity.
Researchers also found there was a gender division in the statistics.
Obesity and excess body fat was likely to have accounted for 5.2 per cent more deaths in 2017 than smoking in men, compared to 2.2 per cent more deaths in women.
Professor Pell said: "The increase in estimated deaths due to obesity and excess body fat is likely to be due to their contributions to cancer and cardiovascular disease.
"Our findings suggest that the public health and policy interventions aimed at reducing the prevalence of smoking have been successful and that national strategies to address obesity and excess body fat, particularly focusing on middle-aged and older age groups and men, should be a public health priority."
Additional reporting by PA
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