Smoking's Weight-Control Offset by Heart Attacks
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The weight-control benefits of smoking cigarettes do not offset the elevated risk of heart disease associated with smoking, researchers reported Thursday at the American Heart Association (news - web sites)'s Asia Pacific Scien
"The risk of dying of heart disease is so much greater than any benefit from cigarette smoking," lead author Dr. Daniel T. Lackland, a professor of epidemiology at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, told Reuters Health.
Lackland and colleagues tested the perception that smoking cigarettes can help prevent weight gain and obesity, an important factor implicated in heart disease. "There's a perception that you can use smoking as an effective means of weight control," Lackland noted. "We thought, maybe, if smokers are leaner, they've reduced their risk of heart disease in some manner."
The researchers examined data of 250,000 men and women taken from the Diverse Populations Collaboration, funded by the National Institutes of Health (news - web sites). The researchers found that smokers did, in fact, tend to weigh 5 to 7.5 pounds less than nonsmokers.
However, any health benefit of being thin was negated by the harm caused by the cigarette smoke. Cigarette smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to suffer from hardening and clogging of the arteries, which can lead to heart attacks. The investigators found that men who smoked had a 50% greater risk of heart attack death than nonsmokers, while women who smoked had an 80% higher risk of death due to heart attack.
"What didn't pan out was that there was any potential benefit to smoking," Lackland said. "Statistically, the risk from smoking is so much greater than any benefit for being leaner. In order for you to realize the risk and benefit, you would have to lose 100 pounds."
Taken another way, those who continue to smoke because they fear gaining weight if they quit should realize the benefits of thinness are being negated, he said. "The benefit of quitting smoking far outweighs the risk of putting on some weight," he explained.
However, doctors encouraging patients to quit smoking need to recognize there could be some subsequent weight increase, and offer suitable counseling and weight control tactics, he advised.