Health knowledge and news provided by doctors.

One Possible Reason Why Stopping Smoking Leads to Weight Gain

Tim Boyer's picture
Smoking may inhibit the hunger hormone ghrelin

Researchers report that smokers are less likely to be obese than nonsmokers; and, that when a smoker stops smoking, weight gain is practically guaranteed. Here’s one reason why stopping smoking might lead to weight gain and what you can do to prevent this from happening to you.


It’s a proven health fact―stopping smoking is the single most important thing a smoker can do to improve his or her own health. However, by stopping one bad habit such as smoking, invariably another―such as overeating―takes its place. According to new research presented at this year’s European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress, the hunger hormone ghrelin may be to blame for that smoking cessation-related overeating.

Here’s a nearly nonsurgical weight loss treatment for decreasing your ghrelin levels.

One of the consequences of the connection between smoking and weight gain avoidance is that it tempts young non-smoking females to take up smoking as a way to manage and control their weight gain. Once the habit is started, it continues onto adulthood until the smoker decides to give up smoking only to discover a resulting weight gain of approximately 22 pounds over the following 5 years living cigarette-free―a condition referred to as post cessation weight gain (PSCWG).

To understand what is actually happening during PSCWG, Dr. Konstantina Zachari and colleagues at Harokopio University Athens, Greece decided to investigate the acute effect of smoking and its abstinence on dietary intake, feelings of hunger, and hormones related to appetite. The long-term goal is to determine how to increase quitting rates among smokers while also lowering their potential for relapse due to weight gain.

According to a news release from the European Respiratory Society, Dr. Zachari and colleagues performed a small randomized crossover study involving 14 healthy males who participated in two trials after overnight abstinence from smoking and food. Following the period of abstinence, the participants either smoked two cigarettes of their preference for 15 minutes or merely held the cigarette as if smoking it, but without lighting it as a control. After the smoking/non-smoking portion of the trial, the participants were allowed to eat as they pleased from a variety of snacks.

Data regarding the amount of snacks consumed and feelings of appetite were recorded at time points 0 minutes, 60 minutes and 150 minutes. In addition, blood samples were drawn and analyzed for various hormones related to appetite including obestatin, ghrelin, GLP-1, CCK and insulin.

What the researchers found was that:

Follow eMaxHealth on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
Please, click to subscribe to our Youtube Channel to be notified about upcoming health and food tips.

• Smoking had an acute and a statistically significant effect on dietary intake, reducing it by 152 calories.

• A preference or taste for either sweet or salty foods did not manifest.

• A lowering of the ghrelin hunger hormone (in comparison to the control group) was observed with smoking, but only of borderline statistical significance.

• Appetite feelings, as well as obestatin, CCK, GLP-1 and insulin levels did not appear to be affected.

“In our small study, we found that smoking had an acute effect on energy intake that could be mediated by alterations in ghrelin levels. Further research is needed to investigate whether these results would be duplicated in a broader study population. We also need to investigate other potential biological mediators and ways to balance post-cessation weight gain in order to achieve higher smoking cessation rates and lower relapse rates,” stated Dr. Zacchari for the news release.

While the small study’s results do not prove that smoking actually lowers ghrelin levels and thereby results in less appetite, it does add some support to the theory that managing hunger hormone levels―such as ghrelin―may be a way to help some dieters control their overeating.

Here’s a Dr. Oz recommended natural appetite suppressant that may curb your ghrelin levels.

For an informative article on how to control your ghrelin and other hunger hormone levels, here are 5 Easy Ways to Harness Your Hormones for weight loss.

Reference: European Respiratory Society news release “Small study shows the effects of smoking on reducing calorie intake