Harvard Health Letter

Harvard study: Benefits of quitting smoking trump subsequent weight gain

Many people delay an attempt to stop smoking because of possible weight gain that may follow. But a new study concludes that a few extra pounds won't hurt your heart as much as smoking will. The findings, published March 13, 2013, in The Journal of the American Medical Association, suggest that quitting smoking is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, despite subsequent weight gain. Researchers say quitters who gain a few pounds still have about a 50% lower cardiovascular disease risk than smokers. The same is true for people with diabetes, which is significant because diabetics must be very careful about weight gain. Typical weight gain within six months after quitting smoking ranges from about 6 to 13 pounds, but that initial gain decreases over time. Smoking is one of the major risk factors of heart disease, so the researchers are hoping their findings will inspire smokers to give quitting a try. "The benefits on vascular health when you stop smoking are so strong that any tiny adverse effects on metabolic health related to weight gain are completely overshadowed," says study author Dr. James Meigs, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School.

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