Quitting Smoking Packs on More Pounds Than Thought

Broken Cigarette
(Image credit: Cigarette photo via Shutterstock)

Quitting smoking may be associated with gaining more weight than previously thought, according to a new study. Still, kicking the habit is a healthy trade-off, researchers said.

In the year after quitting, people gained an average of 8 to 11 pounds, the study found. This amount is higher than what pamphlets on quitting smoking suggest (typically, around 6 pounds), and is also higher than the weight gain most women report they would tolerate (5 pounds), according to the study, published online today (July 10) in the British Medical Journal.

But the health consequences of such weight gain do not undermine the health benefits associated with quitting smoking, according to an editorial accompanying the study in the journal.

The study researchers, led by Dr. Henri-Jean Aubin, of the University of Paris-South, reviewed 62 studies of people who quit smoking, including those involving people who quit by using an aid, such as a nicotine patch, as well as those of people who quit unaided.

The researchers found 37 percent of participants gained less than 11 pounds over the year, 34 percent gained between 11 and 22 pounds and 13 percent gained more than 22 pounds. However, 16 percent of participants lost weight. 

For most people, the weight gain was concentrated during the first three months. For example, people who did not use any quitting aid gained an average of 6 pounds within the first few months, the study showed.

Researchers said that the findings could help doctors give patients a more realistic picture of how much weight they may gain when they quit.

In editorial accompanying the article, researchers wrote that the weight gain is worth the associated health gains of quitting smoking. The weight gain is typically modest, and the weight often is lost in the next few years after quitting, according to authors Dr. Esteve Fernández, of the University of Barcelona, and Simon Chapman, of the University of Sydney.

"Studies indicate that modest weight gain does not increase the risk of death; smoking does," they wrote.

Pass it on: Quitting smoking may bring an 8 to 11 pound weight increase, but the health benefits outweigh this consequence.

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Live Science Staff
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