Does the effect on health from weight gain after quitting smoking outweigh the cardiovascular benefits of quitting? An analysis by James Meigs, Harvard Medical School and Associate Professor of Medicine at General Medicine Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, has an answer.
Meigs and his associates analyzed data from the Framingham Offspring Study, a study that follows children of persons in the original Framingham Heart Study.
The Harvard investigation analyzed data from participants’ third to eighth visits, covering the years from the mid-1980s to the mid-2000s. The number of persons at each exam cycle ranged from about 2400 to about 3250, for a total of 11,148 persons examined.
Researchers saw a general trend of weight-gain among all interviewees. Smokers, never smokers and long-term quitters gained an average of 1-2 pounds, and recent quitters gained an average of 5-10 pounds—which decreased 4 years after having quit.
Regardless of the amount of weight gain, the risk of cardiovascular events in the 6 years after quitting dropped in half for participants without diabetes.*
Meigs, senior author of the study says, “Among people without diabetes, those who stopped smoking had a 50% reduction in the risk for heart attack, stroke, or cardiovascular death, and accounting for any weight increase didn’t change that risk reduction.
“In patients with diabetes—among whom weight gain is a particular concern—we saw the same pattern of a large risk reduction regardless of weight gained.”
“We can now say without question that stopping smoking has a very positive effect on cardiovascular risk for patients with and without diabetes, even if they experience the moderate weight gain seen in this study, which matches post-cessation weight increase reported in other studies,” says Meigs.
*Participants with diabetes experienced a similar drop in the incidence of cardiovascular events but did not reach statistical significance because less than 15% of the study group had diabetes.
Sources: University of CA, Berkeley Wellness Letter, June 2013 HARVARDgazette, May 30, 2013 Study published in Journal of the American Medical Association, March 13, 2013