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Quit smoking: do not let weight gain stop you
Anyone who plans to quit smoking should not be put off by a possible weight gain. Because although being overweight is also unhealthy, the health benefits of stopping smoking clearly outweighs it.
Smoking is a major health hazard
Smoking is a major health risk and, according to experts, the leading cause of premature mortality. The consumption of the glowing stems favors twelve types of cancer such as lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and colon cancer, cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke, arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), chronic bronchitis or the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease COPD (smoker's lung). There are indeed many good reasons for stopping smoking. And even despite a few kilos too much, which you often gain when you keep your hands off cigarettes.
Health benefits by not using nicotine
As the German Society for Internal Medicine e. V. (DGIM) wrote in a message that people who are considering quitting smoking should not be prevented from gaining weight.
Because even though being overweight is also associated with health risks, the health benefits of not using nicotine still clearly outweigh them.
This is the result of an extensive US study that was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The DGIM takes the research report as an opportunity to once again point out the risks of tobacco use.
Ex-smokers gain an average of four to five kilos
As the experts explain, nicotine curbs appetite and increases basal metabolism - two effects that help reduce body weight. Conversely, an increased appetite is one of the typical symptoms of tobacco withdrawal.
Ex-smokers therefore gain an average of four to five kilos if they consistently do without the cigarette.
"For a long time it was unclear whether this effect would partially nullify the lifetime gain achieved by stopping smoking," said Professor Dr. med. Claus Vogelmeier, pneumologist and director at the Clinic for Internal Medicine at the University Hospital Marburg.
However, the current study can dispel these concerns.
Increasing risk of diabetes
In order to arrive at their results, the US researchers used the data from three large long-term studies and were able to identify more than 160,000 participants for whom continuous information on weight, smoking status and health was available.
According to the DGIM, an average of almost 20, sometimes even 30 years of follow-up gave a comprehensive picture of the changes that a smoking cessation entails compared to an ongoing smoking routine.
But the downer first: According to the experts, gaining weight during nicotine withdrawal was not without health consequences.
The risk of developing type 2 diabetes initially increased in the first five to seven years after stopping smoking, but then decreased again.
"The risk of diabetes increased the more the participants gained weight," explains Vogelmeier, chairman of the DGIM.
For example, people who gained less than five kilos were almost excluded from the increase. However, those who gained more than ten kilos had a 60 percent increased risk of diabetes compared to continued smokers.
The positive effects of stopping smoking increase with the years
However, the most important goal of not smoking remained unaffected: regardless of the weight gain, the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease was significantly lower for all ex-smokers than for those who continued to smoke.
The general risk of death, which also included all other causes of death, was also significantly reduced by not smoking.
"This effect occurs very quickly after the smoking cessation and gets bigger in the first ten to fifteen years," explains Vogelmeier.
Significant gain in lifetime
As the US scientists emphasize, the significant decrease in mortality risk - or in other words: the significant gain in lifetime - can be observed for all weight groups.
Only with a very small number of participants who experienced a very strong weight gain of more than 18 kilograms six years after stopping smoking did the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease gradually approach that of still - smokers.
"The bottom line is that stopping smoking is always worthwhile," says DGIM General Secretary Professor Dr. Ulrich R. Fölsch from Kiel.
This also applies to other internal diseases such as rheumatism and gastrointestinal disorders, which are often significantly more pronounced in smoking patients.
In order to really take advantage of health benefits, however, it is advisable to discuss strategies for stopping smoking without massive weight gain in advance with the treating doctor.
Basically, smokers need a firm will to get out of their addiction. Many experts believe that cold withdrawal is the best way to stop smoking. (ad)