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Why Smoking Could Worsen Obesity

New study contradicts belief that tobacco helps control weight

Cigarette smoking may blunt fat and sweetness perceptions among female smokers with obesity, leading to higher consumption of fat and sugar for more intense flavor, researchers report in the journal Obesity. The study in the journal’s April 2014 issue contradicts the idea that cigarette smoking could help women control body weight in the long term.

“Studies show that people who smoke have unhealthier dietary habits than those who do not smoke,” said lead researcher Marta Yanina Pepino, PhD, assistant professor at Washington University School of Medicine. “Our research complements these findings, showing that women who smoke crave fatty food more often than nonsmokers, and cravings for cigarettes and cravings for carbs and high-fat foods go hand-in-hand.”

Pepino, joined by Julie A. Mennella, PhD, a biopsychologist from the Monell Center in Philadelphia, where the research was conducted, tested whether the co-occurrence of smoking and obesity is associated with reduced oral fat perception, or fat content perceived by the mouth, in 47 women 21 to 41 years of age. The women were separated into four groups (14 smokers with obesity, 11 never-smokers with obesity, 10 normal-weight smokers, and 12 normal-weight never-smokers) and asked to rate vanilla puddings that varied in fat content for perceived intensity of creaminess and sweetness.

Overall, female smokers with obesity perceived less creaminess, sweetness, and pleasure while tasting any of the puddings than the women in the other groups. According to researchers, this implies that the ability to perceive fat and sweetness and derive pleasure from foods is compromised in female smokers with obesity, which could contribute to excess calorie intake.

Smoking, regardless of BMI, has been previously tied to increased food cravings and consumption of high-fat foods, as well as increased waist-to-hip ratio, both of which are health risk factors and independent predictors of mortality.

According to the researchers, these findings contribute to the growing body of knowledge that challenges the perception that smoking can help a person maintain a “healthy” weight. Still, research shows an average weight gain after quitting smoking of approximately 5 to 10 pounds — so more data are needed to determine the impact of impaired taste on weight gain.

Source: The Obesity Society; April 1, 2014. p>

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