Smokers who want to kick the butt need not be worried about gaining weight after quitting, scientists have found.
Researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand analysed data from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, which closely followed the progress of around 1,000 people born in Dunedin in 1972-73.
Smoking habits and weight were measured at regular intervals from 15 to 38 years old. About one third of the group were smokers at age 21, and by age 38 around 40 per cent of these people had quit.
Over the 17-year follow up, the quitters’ weight returned to the same level as people of similar age who had never smoked in the first place. Furthermore, they gained only a relatively small amount of weight – around 5kg – compared to people who carried on smoking. The findings were the same for both men and women.
Lindsay Robertson, who led the research, said some earlier research had suggested that people might gain large amounts of weight after quitting, but many of these studies were not very reliable.
“We hope that our findings will encourage people who are thinking about quitting. They should not be put off by the fear of putting on large amounts of weight. It is important to be aware that a small weight gain is unlikely to offset the health benefits of quitting,” said Robertson.
The researchers also found that being a smoker did not prevent long-term weight gain. All groups in the Dunedin Study tended to put on weight over time, regardless of their smoking status, she said. The study was published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.