Not everybody gains weight after quitting smoking: Study

Not everybody gains weight after quitting smoking: Study Doctors and loved ones give smokers umpteen reasons to quit smoking. And smokers always give the same reason or excuse for why they don’t want to quit – quitting may lead to some weight gain. Well, smokers, you need not worry too much because not all smokers will put on weight after quitting.  According to a study conducted by researchers at Penn State College of Medicine, the number of ‘sticks’ a person smokes per day and the smokers current BMI (body mass index) can provide a fair idea of the weight changes that can happen after renouncing cigarettes.

Previous research studies have demonstrated that the weight gain can range from just a few pounds to more than twenty five. Unfortunately the studies were not able to determine how much weight an individual might gain, nor were they able to single out the factors responsible for the weight gain.


According to Susan Veldheer, a registered dietitian, many smokers are worried they’ll gain weight after quitting, and in many cases this becomes a huge factor when they are considering whether or not to even try. That is why it is very important to be able to easily identify which smokers could gain more weight when they quit. On one hand, it’ll help people not at risk of gaining weight take the plunge. On the other hand, it will help prepare the people at risk of gaining weight for the shock ahead and how to deal with it.

As part of the study, the researchers reviewed data from over 12,000 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They looked at the number of cigarettes each participant smoked per day and the BMI of each participant before quitting. They then closely followed the participants for 10 years to note if the above factors played a role in their weight change.

The researchers compared the change in weight for non-smokers, continuing smokers and the quitters. As people tend to put on some weight over time, all the participants in the study gained weight.

The non-smokers gained about a pound a year for 10 years.

In smokers who smoked less than 15 ‘sticks’ per day there was no difference in the 10-year weight gain between those who continued smoking and those who quit.

In smokers who smoked more than 25 ‘sticks’ per day there was a substantial difference in the 10-year weight gain between those who continued smoking and those who quit. They gained 23 pounds that was purely attributed to giving up cigarettes.

In smokers who were overweight and had a BMI of over 30, there was a substantial difference in the 10-year weight gain between those who continued smoking and those who quit. These obese smokers reported 16 pounds of weight gain that could be directly attributed to quitting.


These results are clearly good news for light to moderate smokers who are concerned about weight gain. The results suggest that in the long term, quitting smoking by itself will not make a big impact on their weight.

In the case of obese smokers and copious smokers, the 23 pound weight increase purely attributed to quitting might seem like a big number. However, it is important for these smokes to understand that quitting is the single most important thing they can do for their health. The health benefits of quitting far outweigh the demerits of weight gain.  Having said that, the obese smokers and copious smokers can go one step further and add healthy lifestyle changes, like diet and exercise, to their smoking cessation. This way they can kill two birds with one stone.


Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.


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