Many people who stop smoking, or who are considering it, are concerned they will gain weight. This is a legitimate concern because the majority of people do gain weight once they discontinue smoking. There are a number of proposed reasons for this weight gain.
First, nicotine can act as an appetite suppressor and decreases the desire to eat. Without nicotine, this suppressor effect no longer takes place. It is also claimed that nicotine increases the body’s metabolism, thus burning off more calories.
Nicotine also can dull the taste buds, decreasing an individual’s appetite. When they stop smoking, the taste returns, increasing the appetite.
Another theory is that people who are stressed or bored are more likely to smoke. When they stop smoking, eating replaces what cigarettes once accomplished, controlling their stress and boredom.
How much weight do people usually gain when they stop smoking? A recent study was done to help answer this question. Researchers reviewed 62 prior studies done on the subject, and people who quit smoking were followed for a year to determine their weight status.
Results showed that a year after stopping smoking, 16 percent lost weight, 37 percent gained less than 11 pounds, 34 percent gained between 11 and 22 pounds and 13 percent gained more than 22 pounds. The majority of weight was gained just a few months after the ceasing smoking.
What can be learned from this study? First of all, not everybody gains weight when they stop smoking. Secondly, the amount of weight gain varies, but a certain percentage of people, 13 percent, gained a great deal of weight, more than 22 pounds.
Therefore, by stopping smoking, you may substitute one medical evil for another one: weight gain.
Smokers not only place themselves at a greater risk of developing lung cancer but also chronic lung disease and emphysema. Conditions that not only shorten one’s life, but can also result in a life of fighting for every breath that is taken.
Yes, being overweight is associated with health problems, mainly cardiovascular issues. But weight gain can be controlled with proper nutrition and exercise.
So, concern about gaining weight is not a good enough reason to stop people from giving up the cigarette habit. The benefits and rewards of stopping smoking are just too great to ignore.
Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of The Feingold Center for Children, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund in Massachusetts. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.