Weight gain after quitting smoking higher than previously thought

Giving up smoking is associated with an average weight gain of 4-5 kg after 12 months, most of which occurs within the first three months of quitting, finds a study published in the British Medical Journal today.

Although this figure is higher than previously thought, an accompanying editorial argues that the of quitting far outweigh this modest gain in body weight and should not deter people from quitting.

It is well known that giving up smoking is often followed by an increase in body weight, but estimates vary. Concern about is also widespread among smokers and it may deter some - particularly women - from trying to quit.

So a team of researchers based in France and the UK analysed the results of 62 studies to assess weight change among successful quitters - with and without the help of - after 12 months.

In untreated quitters, the average weight gain was 1.1 kg at one month, 2.3 kg at two months, 2.9 kg at three months, 4.2 kg at six months, and 4.7 kg at 12 months.

This is higher than the typical 2.9 kg often quoted in advice leaflets and more than the 2.3 kg many report being willing to tolerate, on average, before attempting to quit, say the authors.

However, the changes in body weight varied widely, with around 16% of quitters and 13% gaining more than 10 kg after 12 months. This, say the authors, indicates that the average value does not reflect the actual weight change of many people who give up smoking.

Estimates of weight gain for people using replacement therapy were similar, as were estimates from people especially concerned about weight gain.

Previous reports have underestimated the average amount of weight gained when people stop smoking, they conclude. "These data suggest that doctors might usefully give patients a range of expected weight gain."

They suggest that further research is needed to identify the people most at risk of gaining weight and to clarify the best way to prevent continued weight gain after quitting.

In an accompanying editorial, experts from the Catalan Institute of Oncology/University of Barcelona and University of Sydney say that more data is needed to settle this question, and they point out that previous studies have shown that many smokers gain more weight than never smokers for a few years, but then the rate of weight gain falls to that seen in people who have never smoked.

"Although obesity is positively associated with an increased risk of all cause mortality, cohort studies indicate that modest weight gain does not increase the risk of death; smoking does," they conclude.

More information: Research: Weight gain in smokers after quitting cigarettes: meta-analysis
Editorial: Quitting smoking and gaining weight: the odd couple

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Quitting smoking results in minimal weight gain

Feb 17, 2012

The declining rate of smoking is unlikely to be a major contributor to the recent increases in the incidence of obesity. While quitting smoking might cause some people to gain weight, the amount gained will ...

Non-smokers put on less weight

Apr 22, 2010

A new study links nicotine poisoning with weight gain, and concludes that active smokers, not only those who stop, put on more weight than non-smokers. After four years of analysis in the University of Navarra, those who ...

The pill does not lead to weight gain

Jun 07, 2011

Many young women do not want to start taking the contraceptive pill because they are worried that they will put on weight, or come off it because they think that they have gained weight because of it. However, a thesis from ...

Recommended for you

Nearly 30% of world population is overweight: study

Nov 20, 2014

More than 2.1 billion people globally—or nearly 30 percent of the world's population—are now overweight or obese, with the figure set to rise further by 2030, according to a study published Thursday.

Report: Global obesity costs hits $2 trillion

Nov 20, 2014

The global cost of obesity has risen to $2 trillion annually—nearly as much as smoking or the combined impact of armed violence, war and terrorism, according to a new report released Thursday.

Small cash rewards pay off in weight loss plans

Nov 20, 2014

People who received small cash bonuses for their degree of participation in an Internet weight loss program shed more pounds than those who were not offered bonuses and they kept much of the weight off, according to a new ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.