You might have heard that when you quit smoking, you pack on pounds. The logic: Nicotine suppresses your urge to eat and stimulates your metabolism, so without it, your body may burn fewer calories.
But that’s a pretty lame reason to keep puffing. New research presented at the recent Endocrine Society Meeting suggests that quitting smoking doesn’t lead to weight gain—and in fact, it might also boost your metabolic health overall.
In the study, smokers underwent 8 weeks of behavioral therapy and meds to help them quit, and 16 weeks that focused on maintenance without any counseling or drugs. Although the participants drastically cut back on their cigarette use—from an average of 8.8 to 1.4 sticks a day—they didn’t gain any weight or fat by the end.
Their livers also started to pump out lower, healthier levels of glucose. That’s likely because when you smoke, nicotine prompts your body to ramp up blood sugar production, says lead study author Theodore Friedman, M.D., Ph.D.
Too much blood sugar is never good, but high levels can be especially dangerous when you smoke. Tobacco-induced blood sugar spikes can almost double a smoker’s risk of developing diabetes.
Even though the study found no link between weight gain and stubbing out cigarettes, any ex-smoker can tell you the temptation to replace smoke breaks with snack breaks can be huge. So feed your oral fix—but not with food. Instead, try chomping on some sugar-free cinnamon gum.
“The flavor makes both cigarettes and food seem really unappealing,” which can squash your cravings, says Adam Bramwell, the marketing manager of the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program at the Utah Department of Health.
And if you do find yourself snacking like crazy, a few extra pounds are a small price to pay for kicking a deadly habit for good.
Have something to add? Share your comments on Facebook.