Smoking cessation weight gain quantified

hand with cigarette

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.

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1 Comment

  1. Vj Sleight

    Avoiding weight gain is a part of a success quit plan. There are eight reasons why quitters gain weight, (From my book, “How to Win at Quitting Smoking”:There are eight reasons why you
    might gain weight. Which apply to you and which strategies will you try?

    1. A change in metabolism can
    account for three to six pounds. About 70 percent of weight gain is due to an
    increase in calorie consumption, not metabolism.

    Exercise, walk twenty minutes more per day than
    you normally do.

    2. Smoking can inhibit hunger.
    This may be because smokers hold food in their stomachs longer than
    non-smokers, or it may be that nicotine affects the appetite/satiety hormones.
    After quitting you may feel hungrier than before.

    Have small, low-calorie, high fiber snacks
    throughout the day. Include some protein and drink water.

    Nicotine Replacement Products can act as an
    appetite suppressant and Bupropion has shown to limit weight gain.

    3. Withdrawing from nicotine can
    cause changes in your blood sugar which can cause you to crave sugar.

    Substitute raw fruit and vegetables for pastries,
    candy bars and junk food.

    4. You may eat more food as a
    substitution for the hand-to-mouth motion of smoking or as an oral fixation.

    Stock up on low-fat crunchy foods, keep healthy
    snacks available. Increase your intake of vegetables.

    Cut a straw the size of a cigarette or use a
    pretzel stick and “pretend” to smoke it. Sip water frequently. Use the nicotine

    5. Using food as a reward for not

    Find other rewards than food. Stay conscious
    about the amount of food you are eating. See page 21 for ideas of different

    6. Eating more to delay having
    the “after a meal” craving. A cigarette at the end of a meal is like a period
    at the end of a sentence – it tells you when to stop.

    Only eat when you are hungry. Stop eating once you
    are full. Leave the table immediately. Go brush your teeth, have a breath mint,
    chew gum. Use a smaller plate.

    Immediately clear the table and hand wash the
    dishes. It is hard to smoke with wet hands.

    Keep a Food Diary. Before you eat, write down
    what you are going to eat, where you are, what you are doing and how you are
    feeling; similar to your Tobacco Use Record (see page 32).

    7. Food tastes and smells better
    once you have quit smoking.

    Eat slower, put your fork down in between bites.
    Savor the flavor of each bite. Decide how much you will eat before you start
    and don’t take seconds.

    8. Emotional eating: Using food
    as a substitute for not dealing with feelings and emotional needs. To escape
    from boredom, tension, depression, stress. Your most vulnerable times are with:
    Hunger, Anger (Alcohol, and Anxiety), Loneliness, and Tired: HALT and take care
    of your emotional needs.

    Continue your Food Diary, paying particular
    attention to how you are feeling when you are eating. Only eat when you are
    hungry. Learn the difference between hunger and emotional eating. When the
    desire to eat comes up, have an apple or some other healthy food. If you are
    having true hunger, you will eat the apple. If you don’t want the apple, what
    need, other than hunger, do you need to address?

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