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BYU study indicates smokers at greater risk to gain weight

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Posted at 10:04 PM, Nov 08, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-09 00:04:10-05

PROVO, Utah -- Many people who smoke say they do so to lose weight, but a new study from Brigham Young University indicates smokers may actually gain weight in the long run.

Many hazards of smoking are well-known, but, until now, a common observation by doctors hadn't been explored. They noticed a large number of patients who smoke are dealing with diabetes.

“They tend to gain a little more weight, especially around the middle, which is where it really matters, where the fat is unhealthy,” said Mikayla Thatcher, a student researcher at BYU.

But exploring a the link between smoking and weight gain has its challenges.

“You'd have to take a bunch of people who don't smoke and tell half of them to start smoking and see what happens, but in mice, you can do that,” Thatcher said.

What scientists and students at BYU found is that cigarette smoking triggers the body to accumulate molecules known as ceramides, which leads to insulin resistance.

“So far, it's just good to know ceramide is the thing we need to try to block,” Thatcher said. “There isn't actually a drug for it yet.”

Thatcher said the results indicate smokers are more likely to gain weight.

“Long term studies that have followed huge groups of people over decades, show that those who start to smoke over the course of those decades, on average, gain more weight than those who don't begin to smoke," Thatcher said. "...Cigarette smoking ruins your metabolism."