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OBJECTIVES: Lifestyle factors are well-known important modifiable risk factors for obesity; the association between tobacco smoking and central obesity, however, is largely unknown in the Chinese population. This study examined the relationship between smoking and central obesity in 0.5 million Chinese adults, a population with a low prevalence of general obesity, but a high prevalence of central obesity. SUBJECTS: A total of 487,527 adults (200,564 males and 286,963 females), aged 30-79 years, were enrolled in the baseline survey of the China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB) Study conducted during 2004-2008. Waist circumference (WC) and WC/height ratio (WHtR) were used as measures of central obesity. RESULTS: The prevalence of regular smokers was significantly higher among males (60.6%) than among females (2.2%). The prevalence of central obesity increased with age and BMI levels, with a significant gender difference (females>males). Of note, almost all obese adults (99.4%) were centrally obese regardless of gender. In multivariable regression analyses, adjusting for age, education, physical activity, alcohol use and survey site, regular smoking was inversely associated with BMI in males (standardized regression coefficients, β= -0.093, p<0.001) and females (β= -0.025, p<0.001). Of interest, in the BMI stratification analyses in 18 groups, all βs of regular smoking for WHtR were positive in both genders; the βs showed a significantly greater increasing trend with increasing BMI in males than in females. In the analyses with model adjustment for BMI, the positive associations between regular smoking and WHtR were stronger in males (β= 0.021, p<0.001) than in females (β= 0.008, p<0.001) (p<0.001 for gender difference). WC showed considerably consistent results. CONCLUSIONS: The data indicate that tobacco smoking is an important risk factor for central obesity, but the association is gender-specific and depends on the adjustment for general obesity.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Adult, Aged, Biological Specimen Banks, Body Mass Index, China, Educational Status, Female, Health Surveys, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Motor Activity, Obesity, Abdominal, Prevalence, Regression Analysis, Risk Factors, Sex Factors, Smoking, Waist Circumference, Waist-Height Ratio