Quitting smoking leads to eating more junk food, weight gain, study finds


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Former smokers suffering from nicotine withdrawal may prefer fatty, sugary foods to fill the void.

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Put down the pack and pick up a snack.

A new study from the University of Minnesota found that quitting smoking leads to poor diet, which is likely to lead to weight gain.


The new study found that the opioid system – the brain function responsible for addiction and appetite regulation – may cause former smokers suffering from nicotine withdrawal to prefer fatty, sugary foods to fill the void.

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The study was led by Dr. Mustafa Al’Absi, a licensed psychologist and professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Biobehavioral Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth Campus, who published their findings. Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

“We looked at whether acute nicotine withdrawal increases intake of junk food — high in salt, fat and sugar — and how the opioid system’s stress-relief receptors are involved,” said Al Absi. said in a press release from the university. “Reducing these challenges during the treatment process will help patients to quit smoking by understanding their eating habits and encourage healthier decisions.”

The study analyzed a group of smoking and non-smoking participants between the ages of 19 and 75. All subjects were asked to stop nicotine use for 24 hours and received either a placebo or 50 mg of naltrexone, a drug commonly used to treat patients. substance abuse problem.

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At the end of the two sessions before and after temporarily quitting, participants were offered a variety of snacks that varied in high to low energy density and in dimensions of salty, sweet and fat.

The study found that people who were experiencing nicotine withdrawal consumed more calories. Those who took naltrexone were less likely to choose a high-calorie diet.

“The study’s findings may relate to the use of food, especially one high in calories, to cope with the negative effects and distress that people experience during smoking withdrawal,” Al Absi said. “Results from preclinical and clinical research support this and demonstrate that stress increases inclination to high-fat and high-sugar foods.”

Weight gain or the fear of gaining weight after quitting, Al Absi believes, may be a factor in some smokers starting again.

“These findings expand on earlier studies that point to an effect of tobacco use on appetite and help to identify an important biological link, the effect of the brain opioid system, on craving during nicotine withdrawal,” said Al Absi. he said. “The fear of weight gain is a major concern among smokers who think about quitting. The key to overcoming these barriers is to better understand the factors that drive the urge to high-calorie foods.”

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