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A lifestyle of smoking and heavy drinking may predispose individuals to make poor food choices and increase their health risks, according to the results of a survey of more than 6,700 individuals.
"The combination of smoking, liberal drinking and poor nutrition conceivably elevates the risk for various chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease," said one of the study authors Nancy Betts, PhD, RD, of the Department of Nutritional Science and Dietetics at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. "These findings imply that health promotion efforts need to target multiple risk factors simultaneously or sequentially."
Betts and colleagues analyzed data from the Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals, a large-scale nation-wide U.S. Department of Agriculture survey conducted from 1994 through 1996.
Similar to previous studies that found a relationship between cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption, Betts and colleagues found heavy drinking to be more common among current smokers than former or nonsmokers. Heavy drinking was defined for men as more than two drinks a day and for women as more than one drink a day.
According to the researchers, the relationship between nicotine and alcohol is not well understood. "Chronic use of one drug may increase tolerance to the other, or, conversely, nicotine may cause a stimulating effect that is depressed by ethanol," said Betts. "Or, some individuals may be genetically predisposed to heavy alcohol or tobacco use or to addictive behaviors in general."
While the combination of smoking and drinking was not more potent than either behavior alone, both exerted a negative effect on eating habits that corresponded to drug dosage. In other words, as the number of daily cigarettes and alcohol drinks increased among study pa
Contact: Nancy M. Betts, PhD, RD
Center for the Advancement of Health