Weight loss

Does smoking cause weight loss?

Kannan
Aug 18, 2022

If you have been looking for different ways to help with weight loss, you may have heard someone mention that smoking causes weight loss.

Is it the cigarettes? Does smoking cause weight loss?

It might sound strange, but there is a strong link between smoking and weight loss.

But before you decide to take up smoking for weight loss (which you should not!), here’s something equally puzzling: there is a link between smoking and weight gain too. Does smoking cause weight gain? Or does being overweight increase the chances of taking up smoking?

We’ll explain the links between smoking and weight loss and smoking and weight gain in this article.

Before we say anything more, please remember that weight loss is not a good reason to smoke cigarettes.

Link between smoking and weight is complicated

Obesity and tobacco smoking are both leading causes of a number of non-communicable diseases like diabetes and cancer. But how they are connected is a complex area and not fully understood as yet.

Studies consistently show that cigarette smoking is linked to lower body weight. This is thought to be the result of smoking reducing appetite and therefore reduced food intake. 

Studies also show that stopping smoking can lead to weight gain. This could be a consequence of higher caloric intake due to replacement of the smoking habit with food intake.

It seems clear so far.

Cigarette smoking is linked to lower weight, one reason being reduction in appetite. Stopping smoking has the opposite effect and can cause weight gain.

This is where things get complicated, because smokers have been reported to have higher waist circumference and BMI than non-smokers. This could be because of other lifestyle factors other than smoking, such as physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, and alcohol consumption all of which will contribute to higher BMI and waist size.

There is also evidence that being overweight or obese can increase the chances of someone taking up smoking. So we should be asking another question.

Does weight gain lead to smoking? 

Let’s explore each of these questions.

Does smoking reduce weight?

On average, smokers weigh less than those who do not smoke.

But all smokers are not skinny. And smoking cigarettes does not keep you thin. There are a number of factors that make a difference:

  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Whether you are a light or heavy smoker
  • Whether you are at a healthy weight or already overweight

Smoking can reduce appetite

In the short term, nicotine in cigarettes could reduce appetite.

If you are craving a snack or a sweet, it’s possible that smoking a cigarette will make that feeling go away.

Smoking plays various roles, both in terms of physiologically and our behavior, in suppressing appetite and keeping weight down. 

Since you’re smoking, you might eat less because you’re occupying your hands and mouth with other things. 

Physiologically, the release of chemical compounds in the brain, such as dopamine, may play a role in how we crave food and how much we eat.

Combine both these factors and they may explain why smokers end up eating less and therefore are more likely to better manage their weight.

Smoking can increase energy expenditure

Smoking can increase your metabolic rate, the rate at which your body burns calories at rest. But the effect is small.

Nevertheless it can contribute to weight loss in smokers. Remember that this is not a good reason to start smoking.

Does smoking cause weight gain?

Weight gain is cited as a primary reason for not trying to quit smoking.  And the studies show that there is a link between stopping smoking and weight gain.

One reason for this could be that the smoking habit is replaced with higher calorie intake. The improvement in appetite as a result of stopping smoking adds to this.

If you put on weight after quitting smoking, be kind to yourself. You are boosting your health by stopping smoking.  A few extra kilograms are a much lower risk to your health than continuing to smoke.

You can follow an Indian diet plan to lose weight in a safe and effective way and achieve healthy weight loss each month.

Can weight gain lead to starting to smoke?

Studies have linked general and abdominal obesity to an increase in the chances of someone taking up smoking. People who are obese might also start smoking as a weight reduction strategy.

How this works is not yet fully understood but there does seem to be a link between weight gain and starting to smoke or increase in smoking.

Link between smoking and belly fat

If you have some belly fat, it could either be (1) subcutaenous fat; or (2) visceral fat.

Subcutaneous fat is fat stored just under the skin. This type of fat is also found in the arms and legs, which is easier to see. 

Visceral fat is also a type of body fat that’s stored in the abdominal area. It’s located near several important organs, like the liver, stomach and intestines. Since it is stored inside the abdominal area, it is not easily seen. So we may not even realize that we are carrying unhealthy belly fat.

There is increasing evidence that smoking is linked to a greater accumulation of visceral fat.

Smoking is also linked to greater insulin resistance and increases the risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

Studies show that long term and heavy smokers are more likely to be overweight or obese than those who don’t smoke.

A simplistic model of the relationship between obesity and smoking

Conclusion

Based on the latest research there seems to be a two-way relationship between weight gain, weight loss and smoking, as follows:

  • Higher levels of obesity increase the risk of individuals taking up smoking, as well as smoking intensity.

  • Taking up smoking reduces obesity, possibly because of a reduced appetite in smokers. However, it is worth highlighting here that smoking is definitely not a healthy way to lose weight.

  • Studies also show that long term and heavy smokers are more likely to be overweight or obese than those who don’t smoke.

Overall, smoking is linked to greater body fat, higher insulin resistance and increases the risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

We should remember that cigarette smoking is one of the most important preventable causes of death and illness. So managing body weight should never be a reason to consider smoking. 

Stopping smoking is associated with substantial health benefits and would be one of the best things you can do to improve your health.

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