Quitting Smoking? You May Gain More Than 10 Pounds

By Amir Khan on July 11, 2012 12:49 PM EDT

Smoking
Smokers looking to quit have to be weary of weight gain (Photo: Reuters)

Smokers looking to quit have to be weary of weight gain, according to a new study, published in the journal BMJ on Tuesday. People who quit smoking gain more weight than previously expected, researchers said -- 8 to 11 pounds (3.5 to 5 kg) on average.

Researchers looked at more than 62 previous studies to fully evaluate the effects of smoking cessation on weight gain and found that the majority of the weight gain occurred in the first three months, regardless of if the smoker used nicotine replacement therapy, such as the patch.

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Many pamphlets aimed at getting smokers to quit estimate potential weight gain at 6 pounds. Researchers said the new study could help give smokers a better idea of what to expect when quitting.

"These data suggest that doctors might usefully give patients a range of expected weight gain," the study authors wrote.

So how does quitting make you gain weight? Researchers said it has to do with nicotine, the addictive substance in cigarettes. Nicotine quashes appetite by attaching to the brain. When quitting, this effect stops and smokers begin to eat more, leading to weight gain.

However, you should not keep smoking over fear of weight gain, researchers said. The weight gain dropped off after the first quarter and varied between people -- some even lost weight when quitting.

"Most of the post-cessation weight gain occurs quickly, during the first quarter," Henri-Jean Aubin, study author and addiction specialist, told ABC News. "Weight gain decelerates afterwards. There is a great inter-individual variability of post-cessation weight gain. "Weight-concerned smokers should consider the possibility they may not gain weight while quitting smoking."

In addition, the benefits of quitting far outweigh the risks of weight gain, researchers said.

Smoking kills over 400,000 people a year, about 1,200 daily, and the earlier smokers start the more likely they are to die from smoking-related diseases. More than 80 percent of smokers start before age 18 and 99 percent start by age 26.

Smoking can cause a myriad of health problems including stroke, heart disease, chronic lung problems, and various cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking costs the United States $96 billion in medical costs and $97 billion in lost productivity every year.

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