TUESDAY, July 10 (HealthDay News) -- Most smokers who quit gain more weight than previously thought -- an average of about 8 to 11 pounds the first year, according to a new European study.
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Most of this weight gain occurs within three months of kicking the habit, the researchers reported. But, they added, the benefits of quitting still outweigh any concerns over this slight rise on the scale.
In conducting the research, investigators from France and the United Kingdom examined 62 previous studies to evaluate weight fluctuations among smokers who quit successfully with and without the help of nicotine replacement therapy. The weight changes of the former smokers were assessed 12 months after they stopped smoking.
The study found that smokers who quit without the help of nicotine replacement therapy gained an average of about 2.5 pounds one month after quitting. At the two-month mark, they had gained about 5 pounds; at three months, they were up 6.5 pounds. By six months, they had gained about 9 pounds, and after 12 months, they were 10.5 pounds heavier.
The average weight gain was similar for those using nicotine replacement therapy, according to Henri-Jean Aubin, a professor of psychiatry and addiction medicine at Paul Brousse Hospital in Villejuif, France, and colleagues.
The researchers pointed out this weight gain is greater than the 6.5 pounds often quoted in handouts about smoking cessation. It's also more than the 5-pound weight gain limit many female smokers say they will tolerate in order to quit.
The findings reflect the average weight gain of the former smokers, but fluctuation in weight varied widely: 16 percent of the people who stopped smoking lost weight, while 13 percent had gained more than 22 pounds in the year after quitting.
The study, published in the July 10 online edition of the BMJ, concluded that previous research underestimated the amount of weight people will gain in the 12 months after they quit smoking.
"These data suggest that doctors might usefully give patients a range of expected weight gain," the study authors said in a journal news release.
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
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SOURCE: BMJ, news release, July 10, 2012