Metabolism: bacon instead of cigarettes: scientists disprove non-smoking myth

Bacon instead of cigarettes: Scientists debunk non-smoking myth

Not all smokers gain weight when they swear off cigarettes

Many smokers fear that they will gain weight if they stop smoking. But that is not necessarily the case.

Actually it was Claus I. It was easy for him to stop smoking: After hypnosis, his desire for cigarettes had abruptly disappeared. If there had not been the thing with the food. "After two or three days, my taste buds recovered. Suddenly everything tasted much better," recalls the computer specialist, who had smoked two packs a day. "A yogurt from the discount store was suddenly a delicacy. It was like a taste explosion!"

The new desire for food and drink was not without consequences: Within nine months, he gained 18 kilos. "I had to choose between a fatty liver and a smoker’s lung. I’ve been smoking again ever since," he reports. In the meantime, however, Claus I. changed his diet, lost a lot of weight, and is soon planning the next detox: "If I gain weight then, it won’t matter so much."

Two thirds of smokers don’t quit because they don’t want to gain weight

Many smokers have similar struggles: according to the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), half of smokers and just under a third of smokers are so afraid of gaining weight that they don’t quit smoking. Or relapsed again after a smoke-free interval. It is true that most people gain weight after stopping smoking. However, according to DKFZ, there are also ex-smokers who maintain their weight or even lose weight.

The first one to two weeks without cigarettes are often particularly hard. Out of frustration, ex-smokers like to reach for sweets. But you can also keep yourself happy with many other rewards (cinema, meeting friends, shopping trips).

Even small activities in everyday life help: use the stairs more often instead of the elevator, ride a bike instead of taking the car. When choosing a sport, you should be guided by what you enjoy doing.

Drinking plenty of water or tea directly before meals can help to curb appetite. You also get full faster if you chew for a long time and take a long time to eat. The diet should be low in fats and high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Sweets The temptation is not so great if you don’t have "fatteners" such as lemonade, potato chips or cookies in the house in the first place. For cravings, it helps to nibble on raw vegetables (carrots, cucumbers, peppers). Distraction also helps. (angs)

For everyone else: "The weight gain is usually not as dramatic as feared," says psychologist Nils Kroemer, who coordinates an anti-smoking program at the University of Dresden. Depending on the study, different figures are available. According to a meta-analysis led by French addiction physician Prof. Henri-Jean Aubin, which included 62 studies, ex-smokers gain an average of between four and five kilos in the first year after quitting smoking. However, there are large fluctuations: According to the study, about 13 percent gain more than ten kilos, while 16 percent actually lose weight.

In the long term, smokers and non-smokers gain the same amount of weight

In the long term, the weight curves of former smokers and non-smokers equalize again, according to the DKFZ: "Even those who have never smoked usually become fuller over the years.

How people react to nicotine is completely different. Some people are addicted after just a few cigarettes, others are not. Some can quit from one day to the next without experiencing withdrawal symptoms, others suffer for weeks. Some gain kilo after kilo after quitting smoking, others hardly gain any weight at all. But researchers can’t yet explain why some ex-smokers have such severe weight problems.

On the other hand, it is clear which factors increase the risk of gaining weight after quitting smoking: "Above all, those who are already overweight to begin with have a great risk of gaining weight after quitting smoking," says addiction physician Professor Anil Batra of the University of Tubingen. "At risk are also ex-smokers who develop pronounced withdrawal symptoms and therefore have a strong craving for carbohydrates."Then they often try to fight their restlessness with sweets.

The more dependent a smoker was, the more likely they are to gain weight

The principle applies: the more cigarettes you have consumed, the stronger the withdrawal symptoms and the greater the risk of gaining weight. But even this rule is not reliable, as Batra explains: "There are also people who react particularly sensitively to nicotine and develop a strong dependence with just 10 cigarettes a day."

A gentle transition with nicotine patches, gum or other medications sometimes makes quitting easier: according to Batra, they can prevent you from gaining significant weight. But as soon as you stop smoking, they no longer protect you and you face the same problems as other ex-smokers.

But why do most people become fuller when they give up cigarettes?? In addition Kroemer says: "One eats after a smoking stop simply more. It’s that simple!"The German Society for Nutrition, for example, assumes that nicotine increases the energy metabolism – in heavy smokers by about 200 kilocalories per day. If this effect is omitted, you gain weight almost automatically if you eat just as much as before.

Cigarettes as appetite suppressants

According to Kroemer, however, new studies have shaken up this claim. In any case, experts agree that nicotine curbs the appetite. Not for nothing do cigarettes have a long history as appetite suppressants: in times of need, people smoked to suppress hunger. In times of plenty, people smoked to beat their sweet tooth. This is evidenced by the legendary advertising slogan "Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet", which progressive American women in the early 20. The aim of the study was to make cigarettes palatable as an alternative to sweets in the twenty-first century. What the appetite-regulating effects of nicotine are based on is not yet entirely clear.

The best way to get weight problems under control after quitting smoking is exercise. "I always say: You should run away from addiction!", reports Dr. Martina Potschke-Langer, Head of the Cancer Prevention Unit at DKFZ. "The important thing is to choose a type of exercise that gives you pleasure."Ex-smokers often feel much fitter shortly after quitting, so they can enjoy sporting activities in a completely different way. Says addiction physician Batra: "Many former smokers notice that they can breathe quite differently again and have new energies."However, the doctor emphasizes that no one should be put under pressure: "If you’re not that athletic, you’ll be overwhelmed if you have to go jogging during this difficult phase!"

Otherwise, it is important to get hunger pangs and sweet tooth under better control. In addition to switching to a healthy diet that is low in fat but high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, it is worthwhile to pay attention to low-calorie beverages: Cola and other soft drinks in particular are often underestimated as "fatteners," says Potschke-Langer. And another thing: alcoholic beverages also contain lots of calories.

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