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Even with Weight Gain, Quitting Smoking Still Better for Your Health

Posted Apr 15 2013 9:00am
Among adults without diabetes, quitting smoking, compared with continuing smoking, was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease despite subsequent weight gain, according to a study appearing in the March 13 issue of JAMA.

“Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable mortality in the United States and a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Smoking cessation substantially reduces the risks of CVD; however, quitting smoking is associated with a small number of adverse health consequences, weight gain being one of smokers’ major concerns,” according to background information in the article. 

The average weight gain varies between 6.6 lbs. and 13.2 lbs. in North America and happens within 6 months after smoking cessation. Obesity is also a risk factor for CVD. One would think then that weight gain following smoking cessation might lessen the benefits of quitting smoking.

Carole Clair, M.D., M.Sc., of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and colleagues conducted a study to assess the association between 4-year weight gain following smoking cessation and CVD event rate among adults with and without diabetes. The study included data from the Framingham Offspring Study collected from 1984 through 2011. At each 4-year examination, self-reported smoking status was assessed and categorized as smoker, recent quitter (≤ 4 years), long-term quitter (>4 years), and nonsmoker. The primary outcome measure was the incidence over 6 years of total CVD events, comprising coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular events, peripheral artery disease, and congestive heart failure.

Weight gain occurred over 4 years in participants without and with diabetes. Among participants without diabetes, recent quitters gained significantly more weight (median [midpoint], 5.9 lbs.) than long-term quitters (1.9 lbs.), smokers (1.9 lbs.), and nonsmokers (3 lbs.). Among patients with diabetes, recent quitters also gained significantly more weight (7.9 lbs.) than smokers (1.9 lbs.), long-term quitters (0.0 lbs., and nonsmokers (1.1 lbs.).

Compared with smokers, recent quitters had a 53 percent lower risk for CVD and long-term quitters had a 54 percent lower risk for CVD.

“In conclusion, among adults without diabetes, quitting smoking was associated with a lower risk of CVD compared with continuing smoking. This supports a net cardiovascular benefit of smoking cessation, despite subsequent weight gain,” the authors write.
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