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Study: E-Cigarettes Could Help Smokers Avoid Weight Gain When They Quit

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation

An experimental study published in the journal Nature found those who quit or cutdown on smoking by using e-cigarettes are less vulnerable to weight gain than those who don’t vape during cessation.

Many quitters put on weight after they give up cigarettes because nicotine suppresses the appetite. When intake is withdrawn, many people find themselves piling on the pounds.

The Tuesday study, the first of its kind, examined changes in body weight over a year and found there were no significant changes in the weight of subjects who switched to high, medium and zero nicotine e-cigarettes.

Of people who successfully quit smoking, 80 percent experienced weight gain, according to the report. The authors highlighted the trend because obesity carries some of the same health risks as smoking — like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

“Smokers who quit smoking by switching to ECs [e-cigarettes] may limit their post-cessation weight gain, with substantial reversal in weight gain being manifest at late time points,” said the study’s authors.

The researchers caveat their findings and said their results could be a consequence of the relatively small number of women in the study. Additionally, they noted women “tend to gain more weight than men after smoking cessation.”

Many smokers cope with the highly-stressful ordeal of quitting by substituting the satisfaction they gain from smoking with food. “Moreover, EC [e-cigarette] use appears to improve cognitive effects during tobacco abstinence. Taken together, these mechanisms suggest that EC use may limit post-cessation weight gain,” the authors added.

E-cigarettes also made the quitting process “easy, spontaneous and painless” for the subject group. “For these individuals, EC use might have played a role by boosting smokers confidence in their ability to abstain from smoking as well as to lose weight at later time points,” the study stated. (RELATED: Study: E-Cigarettes Just As Effective As Nicotine Replacement Therapy)

But it should be noted that the sample size was small and the authors emphasize the need for more research in the area. They added that their findings are likely to be specific to the particular e-cigarettes they tested, and may not be extrapolated to the whole range of products on the market.

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