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Improving Your Diet May Help You Quit Smoking

smoking cessation, quit smoking, diet, nutrition

There is no doubt that quitting smoking is a challenge. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study finds that over half of all adult smokers attempted smoking cessation in 2010 but many relapse for various reasons. But if you are determined to stop smoking for good, new research suggests that improving your diet by eating more fruits and vegetables may help you quit and stay tobacco-free for longer.

Researchers from the University at Buffalo’s School of Public Health and Health Professions surveyed 1,000 smokers aged 25 and older from around the country using random-digit dialing telephone interviews looking for a link between diet and successful smoking cessation.

Gary A. Giovino PhD, the chair of the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior, said, “We knew from our previous work that people who were abstinent from cigarettes for less than six months consumed more fruits and vegetables than those who still smoked. What we didn't know was whether recent quitters increased their fruit and vegetable consumption or if smokers who ate more fruits and vegetables were more likely to quit."

The latest study found that smokers who consumed the most fruits and vegetables were three times more likely to be tobacco-free for at least 30 days prior to the telephone interviews that those who were the least likely to eat plant foods. Even among those who continued to smoke, those who ate more fruits and vegetables smoked fewer cigarettes per day, waited longer to smoke their first cigarette of the day and scored lower on a common test of nicotine dependence.

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Jeffrey P. Haibach MPH, a graduate research assistant at UB, suspects that it is possible that fruits and vegetables give people more of a feeling of satiety or fullness (due to fiber content) so that they feel less of a need to smoke, since smokers sometimes confuse hunger with an urge to smoke.

Also, unlike meats, caffeinated beverages and alcoholic beverages, fruits and vegetables do not enhance the taste of tobacco and “may actually worsen the taste of cigarettes,” says Haibach.

"We may have identified a new tool that can help people quit smoking," the authors conclude. “An improved diet could be an important item to add to the list of measures to help smokers quit.” These measures include clinical intervention, counseling, behavioral therapies, and cessation medications (prescription and non-prescription).

Nineteen percent of Americans still smoke cigarettes, but most of them – almost 70% - want to quit, notes statistics from the CDC. Smoking cessation is associated with health benefits such as a reduction of risk for lung and other types of cancer, a decreased risk of coronary heart disease and peripheral vascular disease, and improvement to respiratory function.

Journal Reference:
J. P. Haibach, G. G. Homish, G. A. Giovino. A Longitudinal Evaluation of Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and Cigarette Smoking. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 2012; DOI: 10.1093/ntr/nts130

Additional Resource:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention