Smoking Does Not Keep You Slim – But There Is a Male/Female Difference

July 25, 2011

There are many health myths that we hold as truth: the last biscuit on the plate contains no calories, my grandfather drank a bottle of whisky every day of his life and died at 101 so alcohol won’t harm me and perhaps the most common is that smoking helps keep you slim so giving up means becoming hugely overweight.

In one of my previous jobs I was Press Officer to Northern Ballet and bizarrely as it seemed to me most of the dancers smoked. You would think needing the best stamina and lung capacity would militate against it but, particularly for the girls, it was seen as an easy way to suppress appetite and control weight.

Now new research from the Nordic School of Public Health (NHV) in Sweden shows that smoking doesn’t help you get thinner, despite what we may believe. While cigarette smoking has decreased in western countries, obesity has increased and recent studies have suggested that today’s smokers may have less weight problems than non-smokers. Lisa Webb, Master of Public Health at NHV, set up a study in which over 6,000 people have participated in a study on the relationship between smoking and obesity.

They used two measure of body fat: BMI (body mass index) and WHR (waist hip ratio) and what surprised them was the definite difference between the results for men and women. Compared with non-smoker, both male and female smokers had a higher WHR but women had a lower BMI.

So if you are looking to use not giving up smoking because you don’t want to put on weight, then that is no longer viable. One other interesting finding was that the difference between the WHR among female smokers and women who had never smoked actually increased during the study. So if you want to improve your waist hip ratio then giving up smoking will definitely improve your chances of that.


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