Quitting smoking is in the spotlight this November. One of the factors holding back the decision is often related to the fear of gaining weight. Smokers are indeed thinner on average than non-smokers and this impact of tobacco on weight unfortunately encourages some people, especially young women, to smoke to stay slim. A very bad strategy to adopt given the catastrophic effects of tobacco on health.

In addition to its exciting effects on the nervous system, the nicotine contained in tobacco has several effects on the metabolism: reduction of appetite and, consequently, of caloric intake, increase in the body’s energy expenditure ( about 300 calories for 30 cigarettes) and inhibition of enzymes (lipoprotein lipase) involved in the assimilation of fats. Collectively, these factors cause smokers to generally be thinner than non-smokers.

During a study on the antidepressant effect of several substances, a team of researchers from Yale University observed that animals treated with nicotine ate less than the others. Subsequent experiments showed that this effect was a consequence of a specific interaction of this drug with receptors located on the surface of certain neurons of the hypothalamus, the “high command” center of the brain. Since these neurons are specialized in the secretion of melanocortins, hormones used to signal the cessation of food intake, their activation by nicotine mimics in a certain way the feeling of satiety and indicates that the body has eaten enough. In other words, once it reaches the brain, nicotine activates a mechanism that leads to the cessation of food intake.

Stopping smoking: a third of those who quit do not gain weight

This direct impact of nicotine on hunger mechanisms means that it is not uncommon for people to gain weight after quitting smoking. Indeed, nicotine withdrawal causes an increase in appetite and caloric intake, which can be particularly important if the ex-smoker develops bad eating habits to compensate for the lack of tobacco (cravings, cravings, towards certain high-calorie foods).

On average, studies indicate that men gain 3 kg and women 4 kg after quitting smoking. In nearly 15% of ex-smokers, this weight gain can even be greater than 10 kg! Unfortunately, surveys of smokers indicate that this potential weight gain is an important factor for many people in the decision to continue or resume smoking.

This accumulation of weight is not inevitable, however, in fact, almost a third of smokers maintain their weight after quitting smoking.

Stopping smoking: simple good habits to avoid gaining weight

Several simple ways can be considered to minimize the risk of overweight in ex-smokers by temporarily compensating, through small behavioral changes, the satiety effect of nicotine:

  • Eat only with meals and avoid snacking.
  • If cravings are frequent, favor low-calorie raw vegetables.
  • Increase the frequency and/or intensity of physical activity.

– Drink plenty of water while avoiding sugary drinks (juice, sodas).

– Eat lots of vegetables, fruits, legumes and avoid junk food.

The benefits associated with quitting smoking are so significant that the fear of gaining a few pounds should not be a determining factor in the decision to quit smoking. Not to mention that it is entirely possible to avoid this weight gain by adopting healthy lifestyle habits!

To help you take the plunge, do not hesitate to get help from a health professional.

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Source :

Minor YS et al. Nicotine decreases food intake through activation of POMC neurons. Science, 332:1330-32.

* criptom strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the opinion of a health professional.