Diabetes link to quitting smoking

As Cayman becomes accustomed to its new smoking ban and smokers try to give up tobacco as their new year’s resolution, new research is showing the temporary downside of quitting.

Smoking pic

Researchers have found that weight gained by ex-smokers puts them at greater risk of diabetes. Photo: File.

Former smokers have a greater risk of developing diabetes than smokers or non-smokers, due to the pounds people tend to gain after quitting, according to researchers.

The study in the Annals of Internal Medicine on Monday showed that smoking raises the risk of diabetes, but indicated that – at least in the short term – kicking the habit increases the risk even more.

Many people who give up smoking compensate for it by eating more, so smokers who plan to quit should try not to gain weight in the process, said epidemiologist Hsin-Chieh “Jessica” Yeh of Johns Hopkins University, the lead author of the study.

Yeh and her colleagues studied 10,892 middle-aged adults who were enrolled in a study to determine their risk of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

None had diabetes when they enrolled between 1987 and 1989. Most were followed for an average of nine years, and 1,254 developed Type 2 diabetes, usually associated with obesity and characterized by the body’s reduced ability to use insulin.

The study found that smokers had about a 40 per cent higher risk of contracting diabetes than those who had never smoked.

However, the risk increased when smokers quit, peaking at about a 70 per cent increased risk in the first three years after quitting, then declining to normal risk after 10 years.

On average, those who quit smoking gained about 8.4 pounds during the three-year period and had a waist size increase of 1 1/4 inches.

The more weight they gained, and the longer they had been smoking, the higher their risk of developing diabetes.

Researchers did not measure the patients’ weights at that time, so they don’t know whether they lost weight or if some other factor was involved.

She emphasised that smokers should not use the findings as an excuse to keep smoking because the risks of increased heart disease, strokes and cancer linked to smoking far outweigh the small increase in risk for diabetes.

But physicians who encourage their patients to quit smoking should also work with them to prevent weight gain, she said.