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Stop Smoking, Lose Pounds, Get Healthy

Many people smoke to keep their weight down without realizing everything else that is happening to them.  We have all heard about how bad smoking can be for our general health. But, many don’t know how bad it can be for oral health. Smoking not only stains teeth brown and yellow, it also increases gum disease, decay, and tooth loss, and even a deadly form of oral cancer. That means smoking can be more expensive than just a pack of cigarettes.

The CDC reported in 2014 that about 20% of the US population smokes tobacco, causing over 480,000 premature deaths, annually, from cancer, diseases of the heart, lungs, and other related diseases. A known fact is many people won’t quit smoking out of fear of gaining weight. Interestingly, Kruger et al reported in 2005 that obesity from poor diets and lack of exercise is the second leading cause of premature death. So, how do we address all the health issues from smoking without adding the problems associated with weight gain?

The Role of Nicotine

In the 1930’s, cigarette companies began promoting smoking as a way to avoid weight gain. According to research conducted by Lycett and others, tobacco industry suggestions were reinforced by the fact that “approximately 10% of smokers who quit smoking gain close to 30 pounds in weight.” As it turns out, there are good reasons why body weight goes up when people quit smoking. Nicotine initiates the release of chemicals in the brain and central nervous system that decreases hunger and increases metabolism rates. When acting like a diet drug, nicotine also initiates the actions of other chemicals that together, destroy fat cells. Hofstetter reported  that “nicotine increases 24-h energy expenditure by ~10%.” Other deleterious effects of nicotine include “insulin resistance” (diabetic complications) and resistance to inflammation (injury and infection control), as reported by Benowitz, and also reported by Miyazaki.

Controlling Body Weight

When people stop smoking, the effects of nicotine on metabolism (faster) and appetite (decreased), reverses, resulting in weight gain from caloric increase, if there is no balancing increase in exercise. Those seeking support to overcome these problems find only mixed results. McGovern and Benowits reported in 2011, “One group of smokers received standard smoking-cessation counseling, a second group received this counseling plus diet advice to prevent weight gain (that is, weight control), and a third group received the standard smoking-cessation program plus counseling to reduce their concerns about gaining weight.” They found that after 1 year, those who focused on “reducing concerns about weight gain, rather than controlling weight gain itself” had more success with weight control.

Many prefer to take a pill for a quick fix. Unfortunately, as reported by Kenny, “…these medications appear to delay, rather than prevent, post-cessation weight gain.” In fact, their findings indicate that after medications have run their course, weight returns as if no medications had been taken.

Do it Now

As we all know, smoking can lead to a lot of problems, including reports of chronic disease inflammation, constricted arteries, increased blood clotting, cancer, and complications from diabetes. We also know it causes many problems in our mouths that can lead to tooth loss and oral disease. Quitting smoking has always proven difficult. But with the right help, and a personal commitment, our overall health, our oral health, and our general appearance will be improved and extended for many additional years.

Photo from the Quit Smoking Community

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