HERSHEY, Pa., Aug. 13 (UPI) -- Body mass index and the number of cigarettes smoked per day can be used to predict weight changes during the decade after a smoker quits lighting up, according to new research.
The potential for light smokers to gain weight over time after they quit was not significant, the researchers said.
"Many smokers are concerned about gaining weight after quitting smoking and this can be a barrier for them when they are considering whether or not to make a quit attempt," said Susan Veldheer, a registered dietitian in the Department of Public Health Sciences at Penn State College of Medicine, in a press release. "Being able to easily identify smokers who may gain more weight when they quit is important so that we can work with patients to tailor their treatment plan."
Reserachers analyzed data on 12,204 adults younger than 36 collected between 2003 and 2012 for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They considered BMI at the start of the study, how many cigarettes participants smoked per day, and whether they quit during the study.
Over time, researchers said, everybody gains weight -- about 1 pound per year. With this in mind, they found that people who smoked fewer than 15 cigarettes per day showed no significant weight gain over 10 years whether or not they quit.
People who smoked 25 cigarettes per day reported they had gained an average of 23 pounds during the decade-long study. Obese people with a BMI of 30 or more before they quit reported an average gain of 16 pounds during the study.
Researchers said that while weight gain can be predicted based on several factors seen in the study, they still do not understand exactly the factors that predict how much weight will be gained.
"Although this may seem like a lot of weight, it is important for all smokers to remember that quitting smoking is the single most important thing they can do for their health," said Veldheer. "That being said, for heavy smokers and obese smokers, it may be a good idea to work on quitting smoking while also making other healthy lifestyle changes to control their weight."
The study is published in the International Journal of Obesity.