Weight gain is a big worry for many people who want to quit smoking. Will they gain a little or a lot? Experts say there are two factors that can help predict which smokers are likely to gain 20 pounds or more.

“Many smokers are concerned about gaining weight after quitting smoking and this can be a barrier for them when they are considering whether or not to make a quit attempt,” says Susan Veldheer, a registered dietitian at Penn State College of Medicine. “Being able to easily identify smokers who may gain more weight when they quit is important so that we can work with patients to tailor their treatment plan.”

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Veldheer and colleagues analyzed data from 12,204 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They looked at the number of cigarettes smoked a day and body mass index before quitting to see how these factors may have affected weight change over 10 years.

They compared the change in weight for non-smokers, continuing smokers, and smokers who quit.

“People tend to put on some weight over time and everyone in the study gained weight. The non-smokers gained about a pound a year for 10 years,” says Veldheer.

Fewer than 15 cigarettes a day

The researchers then compared the weight gain in smokers who quit and smokers who continued smoking. What they found is that for smokers of fewer than 15 cigarettes a day, there was no significant difference in the 10-year weight gain between those who quit smoking and those who did not quit.

“This is good news for light to moderate smokers who are concerned about weight gain. It means that in the long term, quitting smoking will not make that big of an impact on their weight,” says Veldheer.

More than 25 cigarettes a day

However, for smokers of 25 or more cigarettes a day and those who were obese prior to quitting—body mass index of 30 or more—the amount of weight gain attributable to quitting was substantial.

Smokers of 25 or more cigarettes a day reported 23 pounds of smoking cessation-attributable weight gain, and obese smokers reported 16 pounds of weight gain that could be directly attributed to quitting.

“Although this may seem like a lot of weight, it is important for all smokers to remember that quitting smoking is the single most important thing they can do for their health,” says Veldheer.


This text is published here under a Creative Commons License.
Author: Matthew Solovey-Penn State University
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