Researchers at the University of Tasmania’s Menzies Institute for Medical Research have now been able to quantify the weight gain for smokers who quit, and the difference in weight gain between quitters and continuing smokers.
Fear of weight gain is a commonly cited reason for not quitting smoking, despite evidence that quitting will result in better overall health.
Mrs Jing Tian and Dr Seana Gall, from the Public Health and Primary Care research theme at Menzies, analysed data from 63,403 quitters and 388,432 continuing smokers and found that people who quit smoking gained an average of 4.1 kg weight over about five years, which is 2.6 kg greater than the gain in continuing smokers.
They found the amount of difference in weight gain is greater in women than men, and in studies conducted in North America than in Asia.
“We don’t want our findings interpreted as an incentive to keep smoking,” Dr Gall, a cardiovascular epidemiologist, says.
“Other studies suggest that this small amount of weight gain does not offset the many health benefits of quitting smoking.
“The reasons for the weight gain after smoking are complex but probably related to changes in brain activity and metabolism after quitting.”
The Director of Quit Tasmania, Abby Smith, says the main message is that people should not put off quitting smoking for fear of unwanted weight gain.
“Smoking causes cancer. The best approach to tackle weight gain is by being active and eating a healthy diet,” Smith says.
She urged consumers to see a health care professional about quitting or to call 13 QUIT (13 7848).
Cigarette smoking is responsible for nearly six million deaths worldwide every year. About two in every three smokers in Australia will die prematurely from a tobacco-related disease.
The study, using a systematic review and meta-analysis, was recently published in the journal Obesity Reviews.