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Moist snuff warning in study from Umeå University scientists

Is ‘snus,’ or Swedish moist snuff, a wolf in sheep’s clothing? A new longitudinal study from researchers at Umeå University in Sweden shows an increased risk of so-called metabolic syndrome in heavy users of moist snuff.

The metabolic syndrome­-a catch-all name for a picture of disturbed sugar regulation, high blood pressure, high blood fats, and obesity-­increases the more individuals use moist snuff, according to a study being published in Scandinavian Journal of Public Health.

In Västerbotten County in Sweden as of the early 1990s, all middle-aged men are invited to take part in a health study the year they turn 40, 50, and 60. Besides having their height, weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood fat levels monitored, participants fill out a comprehensive questionnaire about their life situation and habits. As of 2006 75,000 individuals have participated in the Västerbotten health study. Of the some 25,000 people who were examined over the five-year period 1990–1994, 16,500 came back when they were offered a health check-up ten years later.

Although the researchers took into consideration gender, age, physical activity, level of education, and alcohol problems as well as known family history of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, the statistical analysis nevertheless showed a 60% increase in metabolic syndrome among those who were heavy users of moist snuff (defined as at least 4 boxes a week) in their first health check-up.

Scrutiny of what components of metabolic syndrome were affected by moist snuff indicated that increase use of this snuff primarily increases the risk of obesity and raised levels of blood fats (triglycerides).

The study, the first longitudinal analysis of moist snuff and metabolic syndrome, shows that we should be paying close attention to the effects of moist snuff on our health. The risks of smoking are incontrovertibly greater than those of using moist snuff. But the Umeå study shows that it is premature to declare that it is safe to use moist snuff. Even though the study indicates that frequent consumption of moist snuff increases the risk of metabolic syndrome, further research is needed regarding what mechanisms lie behind these new findings.

Hans Fällman | alfa
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