Quitting Smoking Doesn't Add Pounds
20-Year Study Shows Kicking the Habit Doesn't Cause Long-Term Weight Gain
WebMD News Archive
Nov. 14, 2006 (Chicago) -- If you're using fear of weight gain as an excuse
to keep lighting up, you're in for a surprise.
Quitting smoking will not affect your weight over the long-term, researchers
"If you quit, you may gain an extra 4 to 5 pounds. Or, if you start, you
may lose a few pounds. But it's only temporary," says researcher Samuel
Gidding, MD, professor of pediatrics at Jefferson Medical College in
Philadelphia and outreach director at A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children in
Over the long term, people tend to gain similar amounts of weight regardless
of race or sex, he tells WebMD.
Long-Term Weight Stable
For the study, presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart
Association, researchers reviewed data from a long-term study examining how heart disease develops in adults.
Participants included more than 5,000 black and white men and women aged 18
to 30 when enrolled in 1986.
During seven exams over the next two decades, doctors measured the
participants' body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight in
relation to height. They also asked about smoking status.
The men and women were then divided into four groups for each exam interval:
persistent smokers, never smokers, quitters, and starters. "From visit to
visit, people could move from one group to another," Gidding says.
"What we found is that over the 20 years of the study, starter and
quitter groups were really populated by the same people bouncing back and
forth," says Gidding.
"Because they were ping-ponging back and forth, ultimately, smoking
status had very little impact on weight," he says.
No More Excuses
The bottom line, Gidding says, is that a change in smoking status was
associated with a rise in BMI, but those who continued to either smoke or not
smoke gained weight at the same rate.
Elliott M. Antman, MD, an AHA spokesman and a heart specialist at Harvard
Medical School, says this information will be useful in counseling
"The weight issue is of particular concern to women, some of whom start
smoking in an effort to control their weight, and others who are afraid to quit
because they will put on extra pounds," he tells WebMD.
"Now I can turn to patients and say, 'Look, we have long-term data
showing that is not the case. Smoking status has limited impact on body weight,
so concerns about weight gain should not be used as an argument against
cessation of smoking,'" Antman says.