You've probably heard this before (and maybe even used it as an excuse not to quit): once you stop smoking, you’re sure to pack on the pounds. In fact, in a new study published in BMJ, researchers are saying that you should expect to gain more than just the six lbs. written in stop-smoking pamphlets. But as alarming as this may sound, there is no need for panic. The weight gain is apparently temporary.
For the study, researchers looked at 62 randomized controlled trials of smoking cessation programs. They carefully tallied any weight changes in the participants, separating those who stopped smoking with the help of quit aids and those who stopped by relying on their own willpower. Looking at the participants who successfully quit smoking after 12 months, researchers determined a pattern. On average, quitters who didn’t depend on drugs or nicotine replacement gained 2.5 lbs. one month after kicking the habit, but they eventually lost 5 lbs. after two months, 9.3 lbs. after six months, and 10.3 lbs. after a whole year.
Despite these results, researchers say that weight gain isn’t the only outcome of quitting. According to study author Henri-Jean Aubin, professor of psychiatry and addiction medicine at Hôpital Paul Brousse in France, there are others who actually lost weight in the process.
"Although our study has confirmed that there is substantial weight gain on average during the first year of continuous abstinence, a prediction of average weight gain will be wrong for most individual smokers," says Aubin. "The good news is that after the first [three months], weight gain is decelerating substantially. Nearly 20 percent of the smokers actually lose weight after one year of continuous abstinence."
In addition, Esteve Fernández, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Barcelona, and Simon Chapman, a professor of public health at the University of Sydney, believe that individuals who want to quit smoking will fare better than the participants of the study. Apparently, the data used for the study was limited to those who volunteered for the trials, indicating a need for professional assistance. These people may be more likely to have trouble controlling other impulses (e.g., binge eating) as well.
Whether you are among those will gain or lose weight, however, isn’t as important as actually quitting. Weight gained may eventually be lost, but keep on smoking and your health will suffer for it.
(Photo by meddygarnet via Flickr Creative Commons)