Smokers will come up with a number of reasons explaining why they can’t quit just yet. I won’t be able to handle the stress at work. I’m not ready to face nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Above all other explanations, smokers tend to avoid quitting because they don’t look forward to gaining weight. A recent study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2014 has revealed that people who gain weight after they quit smoking do not increase their risk for death.

"Quitters had a significantly lower risk of death compared to smokers regardless of their weight change after they stopped smoking," Dr. Hisako Tsuji, lead author from the Health Promotion Department at the Health Examination Center in Japan, said in a statement.

Tsuji and her colleagues tracked causes of death for 1,305 Japanese adults who quit smoking and compared them to 2,803 Japanese adults who kept smoking. Among both groups, 65 percent were men at an average age of 54. Data was gathered using check-ups and follow-ups between 1997 and 2013 at the Health Examination Center. Smokers who quit were divided into three groups, including 362 men and women who gained no weight, 458 who gained around 4 pounds and 6 ounces, and 485 who gained more than 4 pounds and 6 ounces.

After adjusting for age, gender, hypertension, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia, researchers found that ex-smokers who gained no weight had a 34 percent lower risk for death. Those who gained 4 pounds and 6 ounces had a 49 percent lower risk for death, and those who gained over 4 pounds and 6 ounces had a 26 percent lower risk for death compared to current smokers. Research has shown that smoking can act as an appetite suppressant while also increasing a smoker’s metabolism. When a smoker quits, his appetite and metabolism returns to normal, meaning he eats more and burns fewer calories.

According to the American Heart Association, the average smoker dies 13 to 14 years younger compared to a nonsmoker. Smoking is considered the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Over one in five deaths is attributed to smoking. To prevent weight gain after quitting, smokers should incorporate diet and exercise into their stop-smoking plan. Increasing their amount of physical activity will also help curb nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

Source: Tsuji H, et al. American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions. 2014.