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Smokers who quit risk diabetes, study finds

Tue., Jan. 5, 2010

LOS ANGELES – Smoking raises the risk of diabetes, but new research indicates that – at least in the short term – kicking the habit increases the risk even more.

The problem is not really quitting smoking. It’s the pounds most people pack on when they give up cigarettes, Pennsylvania researchers report today in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Smokers who plan to quit should be very careful not to start eating more and thus gain weight, said epidemiologist Hsin-Chien “Jessica” Yeh of the University of Pennsylvania, the lead author of the study. But the most important message, she said, is “don’t begin to smoke in the first place.”

Yeh and her colleagues studied 10,892 middle-age 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 about nine years, and 1,254 developed Type 2 diabetes, which is usually associated with obesity and is characterized by the body’s reduced ability to use insulin.

The study found that smokers had about a 40 percent higher risk of contracting diabetes than those who never smoked. “That is consistent with previous research from many studies saying smoking is bad,” Yeh said.

However, the risk increased when smokers quit, peaking at about a 70 percent 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 their waist size grew by 1 1/4 inches. The more weight they gained, and the longer they had been smoking, the higher their risk of developing diabetes.

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