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Does Smoking Reduce Your Appetite?

By Jay Schwartz ; Updated August 14, 2017

Smoking has many positive short-term effects, including reducing your appetite, because of the presence of nicotine, which is "the primary active ingredient" in tobacco, according to the textbook "An Invitation to Health." Nicotine is also an addictive drug that causes people to continue smoking cigarettes, cigars and pipes. Continuing to smoke causes roughly 450,000 Americans to die annually. Quitting smoking causes nicotine withdrawal symptoms that include an increased appetite.

Explanation

Smoking causes about 90 percent of tobacco's nicotine to enter your body, according to "Invitation." When the nicotine reaches your brain, it affects several brain hormones, including acetylcholine, adrenaline, beta-endorphin, dopamine, morepinephrine and vasopressin. The positive effects include reducing your appetite and decreasing your sense of taste and smell, reports "How to Quit Smoking," a chapter in "Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease." Nicotine also calms you when you're stressed, improves your memory and problem-solving skills, and decreases your anxiety and depression.

Significance

Smokers weigh 3 to 5 lbs. less than nonsmokers, according to "How to Quit Smoking." Ornish attributed the difference to nonsmokers eating fewer calories because of their reduced appetite and nicotine's effect on metabolism. Smokers burn about 100 more calories daily than nonsmokers because of their faster metabolic rate. This is not a good thing because faster metabolic rates are caused partly by increased heart rates. Nicotine also increases your risk of irregular heartbeats and sudden cardiac arrest.

Correlation

Teenage girls who dieted are more likely to smoke than nondieters, and teenage girls who begin a diet are twice as likely to also begin smoking, according to a University of Florida study of about 8,000 adolescents. The study's authors attributed the link to smoking's effect on appetite. It's also possible that there is a link between eating less and using more drugs such as tobacco, according to a University of Florida study. The study didn't find a dieting-smoking link among boys, but they're less likely to diet and smoke.

Warning

Smoking instead of eating is not an appropriate trade-off although obesity is a major risk factor for many diseases, reported "Invitation" author Dianne Hales. Smoking two packs of cigarettes daily is a "greater danger" than being 60 lbs. overweight, wrote Hales, who reported that people who stop smoking gain an average of 7 lbs. The American Cancer Society attributed weight gains to an increased appetite caused by nicotine withdrawal. Other nicotine withdrawal symptoms include anger, depression, fatigue, headaches and sleeping problems.

Expert Advice

Quitting smoking is advisable for many reasons, according to the cancer society's "Guide to Quitting Smoking." Ex-smokers are less likely to get lung cancer, heart attacks and strokes than smokers, and they live longer. Brown University's "Smoking Cessation" report has many recommendations for people concerned about weight gain. They include eating lots of fruits and grains, eating mostly low-fat foods, eating every two to four hours and eating breakfast.

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