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Why do ex-smokers gain weight?

Why Do Ex-Smokers Gain Weight?

Weight gain is not a consequence of giving up the use of tobacco, but statistics show the average ex-smoker gains from five to ten pounds during the immediate period following cessation.

Several reasons for the change have been suggested by Paul L. Cerrato, M.A., writing in RN, the nursing journal (2:89).

Smoking increases the metabolic rate. A pack-a-day smoker probably has a 10% higher metabolic rate than a non-smoker. Nicotine may speed up metabolism by causing the release of norepinephrine, a hormone that stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. This in turn would increase the rate at which tissues use energy.

One Swedish study, for instance, found that smoking 24 cigarettes a day expended an extra 200 kilocalories. Based on these figures, a smoker who quits might expect to gain about 22 pounds if he continues to eat the same number of calories he consumed before he quit.

Food tastes better after you quit. The senses of taste and smell improve once a person quits tobacco, to make food more appetizing.

Smokers often eat more than non-smokers. Unfortunately, they often continue to consume those extra calories after they quit, though energy needs have dropped.

Gastric motility may slow down among ex-smokers. If additional studies support this conclusion, it would mean that ex-smokers actually absorb more calories because food remains in the GI tract longer.

Although metabolic rate may slow down when a person stops smoking, investigators have yet to prove that this is a permanent phenomenon. If temporary, ex-smokers can expect to lose those extra pounds as energy expenditure increases again.

Based on the Swedish report previously mentioned, cutting back by about 200 kcal a day -- roughly equivalent to two small slices of pizza, a piece of coffee cake, or a can and a half of beer -- will compensate for the metabolic slowdown. For a 70 kg (154 pound) adult male between 51 and 75 years to age, it means reducing total intake to about 2,200 kcal. A 55 kg (121 pound) woman would have to cut back to 1,600 kcal.

To cope with the increased appetite or nervous tension that may accompany nicotine withdrawal, recommend vegetable salads, celery sticks, or limited amounts of sugarless gum, fresh fruit, fruit juice popsicles, or unbuttered popcorn.

Adding exercise to the diet regimen provides a twofold benefit: It uses up calories and it helps patients "burn off" some of their nervous energy. Thirty minutes of lap swimming, brisk walking, or bicycling expends about 200 kcal.
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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Mar 22, 1989
Previous Article:Nicotine changes eating habits.
Next Article:Smoking and bone loss.

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