A new study out of the University of Minnesota has found that quitting smoking results in a poor diet, which can contribute to weight gain.
Former smokers suffering from nicotine withdrawal may prefer fatty, sugary foods to fill the void, the study noted. The opioid system - the brain functions responsible for addiction and appetite regulation - may cause former smokers suffering from nicotine withdrawal to prefer fatty, sugary foods to fill the void.
Dr. Mustafa al'Absi, a licensed psychologist and professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Biobehavioral Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth Campus, led the research, and his findings were published in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
"We looked at whether or not acute nicotine withdrawal increases the intake of junk food - high in salt, fat and sugar - and how the stress-relieving receptors of the opioid system are involved," al'Absi said in a press release.
"Mitigating these challenges during the treatment process will help patients quit smoking while understanding their eating habits and encourage healthier decisions."
The research looked at a group of smokers and non-smokers between the ages of 19 and 75. All participants were requested to abstain from nicotine for 24 hours before receiving either a placebo or 50 mg of naltrexone, a medicine routinely used to treat substance abuse.
Participants were served a range of refreshments at the end of the two sessions before and after temporarily quitting, ranging in energy density and salty, sweet, and fat dimensions.
The participants in the study who were suffering from nicotine withdrawal consumed more calories. Those who took naltrexone were less likely to have a high-calorie meal.
Weight increase or the fear of weight gain after quitting, according to al'Absi, could be a role in some smokers relapsing. These findings, according to the paper, expand previous studies that show the impact of tobacco use on appetite and "help pinpoint the role of a key biological link, the brain opioid system, on seeking during nicotine withdrawal.
The worry of gaining weight is a key issue among smokers who are considering quitting. The key to overcoming these obstacles, the team concluded, is to better understand the elements that boost the desire for high-calorie foods.