Study looks at weight gain when people try to stop smoking

Written by Tim Lambert and Radio Pennsylvania | Aug 18, 2015 10:10 AM

FILE PHOTO: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

(Hershey) -- A new study out of Penn State's College of Medicine in Hershey focuses on people trying to quite smoking and the potential weight gain they may experience as a result.

Researchers studied more than 12,000 participants to determine if the possibility of gaining weight was a barrier to a person's desire to quit smoking.

Susan Veldheer, a registered dietician and the study's lead author, says a lot of studies in clinical trials have shown people have gained weight.

"We know that it happens, but exactly how much and what personal factors might influence that weight gain has not been well-described in the literature," she says. "So, that was the main purpose in the study."

The researchers compared the change in weight for non-smokers, continuing smokers and smokers who quit and then the weight gain in smokers who quit and those who continued smoking.

They found for smokers of fewer than 15 cigarettes per day, there was no significant difference in the 10-year weight gain between those who quit smoking and those who did not quit.

The study shows people of average weight who smoked at least 25 cigarettes per day gained an average of 23 pounds after they quit, compared to 16 pounds gained by whose who weighed more when they quit.

Veldheer adds that was one of the more surprising findings.

"People who were obese when they decided to quit smoking, (meaning) they had a body mass index greater than or equal to 30, gained the most weight," she says. "Part of that was that people who were obese and continued to smoke actually lost weight over the 10 years that were measured in the study."

Veldheer says that may serve as a reason for some not to stop smoking, but notes quitting remains the healthiest step a person can take.

The study is published in the International Journal of Obesity.

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