According to a study reported in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, the overall health benefits Americans first gained because of the drop in smoking are literally being outweighed by the negative consequences of the obesity epidemic. “Failure to address continued increases in obesity could result in an erosion of the pattern of steady gains in health observed since early in the 20th century,” say researchers from Harvard University and the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts and the Departments of Internal Medicine and Health Management and Policy of the University of Michigan Schools of Medicine and Public Health in Ann Arbor. Continued the report, "The negative effects of increasing BMI overwhelmed the positive effects of declines in smoking in multiple scenarios." The takeaway: the positive gains of weight loss are undeniable and valuable at any age. Of course, the earlier, the better: If all US adults became nonsmokers of normal weight by 2020, the researchers forecast that the average life expectancy would increase by nearly four years.