Study: Smokers better off quitting, even with weight gain

In this June 22, 2012 file photo, a smoker extinguishes a cigarette in an ash tray in Sacramento, Calif. (AP)
Updated 18 August 2018
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Study: Smokers better off quitting, even with weight gain

  • Quitters saw their risk of diabetes increase by 22 percent in the six years after they kicked the habit
  • The people enrolled in the studies were all health professionals, and did not mirror current smokers in the general population, who are disproportionately low-income, less-educated and more likely to smoke heavily

NEW YORK: If you quit smoking and gain weight, it may seem like you’re trading one set of health problems for another. But a new US study finds you’re still better off in the long run.
Compared with smokers, even the quitters who gained the most weight had at least a 50 percent lower risk of dying prematurely from heart disease and other causes, the Harvard-led study found.
The study is impressive in its size and scope and should put to rest any myth that there are prohibitive weight-related health consequences to quitting cigarettes, said Dr. William Dietz, a public health expert at George Washington University.
“The paper makes pretty clear that your health improves, even if you gain weight,” said Dietz, who was not involved in the research. “I don’t think we knew that with the assurance that this paper provides.”
The New England Journal of Medicine published the study Wednesday. The journal also published a Swedish study that found quitting smoking seems to be the best thing diabetics can do to cut their risk of dying prematurely.
The nicotine in cigarettes can suppress appetite and boost metabolism. Many smokers who quit and don’t step up their exercise find they eat more and gain weight — typically less than 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms), but in some cases three times that much.
A lot of weight gain is a cause of the most common form of diabetes, a disease in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal. Diabetes can lead to problems including blindness, nerve damage, heart and kidney disease and poor blood flow to the legs and feet.
In the US study, researchers tracked more than 170,000 men and women over roughly 20 years, looking at what they said in health questionnaires given every two years.
The people enrolled in the studies were all health professionals, and did not mirror current smokers in the general population, who are disproportionately low-income, less-educated and more likely to smoke heavily.
The researchers checked which study participants quit smoking and followed whether they gained weight and developed diabetes, heart disease or other conditions.
Quitters saw their risk of diabetes increase by 22 percent in the six years after they kicked the habit. An editorial in the journal characterized it as “a mild elevation” in the diabetes risk.
Studies previously showed that people who quit have an elevated risk of developing diabetes, said Dr. Qi Sun, one the study’s authors. He is a researcher at the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
But that risk doesn’t endure, and it never leads to a higher premature death rate than what smokers face, he said.
“Regardless of the amount of weight gain, quitters always have a lower risk of dying” prematurely, Sun said.


Space station supplies launched, 2nd shipment in 2 days

Updated 17 November 2018
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Space station supplies launched, 2nd shipment in 2 days

  • The International Space Station has received two deliveries in as many days
  • Tuesday marks the 20th anniversary of the space station being in orbit

CAPE CANAVERAL: A load of space station supplies rocketed into orbit from Virginia on Saturday, the second shipment in two days.
Northrop Grumman launched its Antares rocket from Wallops Island before dawn, delighting chilly early-bird observers along the Atlantic coast. The Russian Space Agency launched its own load of supplies to the International Space Station on Friday, just 15 hours earlier.
The US delivery will arrive at the orbiting lab Monday, a day after the Russian shipment. Among the 7,400 pounds (3,350 kilograms) of goods inside the Cygnus capsule: ice cream and fresh fruit for the three space station residents, and a 3D printer that recycles old plastic into new parts.
Thanksgiving turkey dinners — rehydratable, of course — are already aboard the 250-mile-high outpost. The space station is currently home to an American, German and Russian.
There’s another big event coming up, up there: The space station marks its 20th year in orbit on Tuesday. The first section launched on Nov. 20, 1998, from Kazakhstan.
This Cygnus, or Swan, is named the S.S. John Young to honor the legendary astronaut who walked on the moon and commanded the first space shuttle flight. He died in January.
It is the first commercial cargo ship to bear Northrop Grumman’s name. Northrop Grumman acquired Orbital ATK in June. SpaceX is NASA’s other commercial shipper for the space station.
Experiments also are going up to observe how cement solidifies in weightlessness, among other things. There’s also medical, spacesuit and other equipment to replace items that never made it to orbit last month because of a Russian rocket failure; the two men who were riding the rocket survived their emergency landing. Three other astronauts are set to launch from Kazakhstan on Dec. 3.