“We are not suggesting that we should promote e-cigarettes to people who haven’t smoked. But for people who are thinking about the best way to stop smoking and are concerned about weight gain, I think what we are suggesting is that e-cigarettes should certainly be considered.”
As smoking rates plummet among countries in the Western world, rates of Obesity have been steadily on the rise. Obesity is set to surpass smoking as the leading cause of preventable death and diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Ironically, tobacco use has long been regarded as a way to mitigate weight gain. The nicotine increases the body’s metabolic rate which suppresses appetite.
The possibility of gaining weight after quitting is often a barrier to getting people to quit, and that same weight gain is often the reason people relapse back into smoking again. While there are more traditional nicotine replacement therapies such as Zyban and Chantix, studies have emerged suggesting e-cigarettes containing nicotine may be a better alternative. Researchers have been exploring vaping as a potential stopgap in helping people control weight gain as they try to quit smoking in a dual effort to curb the rates of both smoking and obesity.
In an article titled “Could Vaping be a New Weapon in the Battle of the Bulge?” from the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research published by the Oxford University Press, an international group of researchers reviewed a range of studies that covered the effects of vaping and nicotine on the body. They conducted their research in an attempt to figure out the potential role vaping may play in preventing people from gaining weight as they attempt to quit smoking. The study also explores the relationships between aroma, taste, and mouthfeel in e-liquids and how they may help tackle food cravings.
Another study published in the journal Nature, titled “Evaluation of Post Cessation Weight Gain in a 1-Year Randomized Smoking Cessation Trial of Electronic Cigarettes” examined changes in body weight in a randomized group of smokers who switched to e-cigarettes in an attempt to quit or reduce smoking. They also sought to measure weight gained or lost among vapers using different e-liquid nicotine strengths to see if there was any noticeable difference.
The authors of the Nicotine and Tobacco Research paper found that e-cigarettes themselves, alongside the myriad of flavors, could prevent cravings for certain foods as well as aid in mitigating weight gain. They suggest the vast array of flavors offered and the hobby of filling and making custom blends may serve as a type of behavioral replacement therapy. “You are re-filling the e-liquids, you might be mixing your own liquids, you are trying different flavors, you are doing things with your hands that take up time which means maybe you are not reaching for the bowl of M&Ms,” said Dr. Linda Bauld.
The authors of the study in Nature found no significant weight changes among smokers who had switched to vaping. Interestingly, despite the known effects of nicotine on metabolism and appetite suppression, it appears the strength of nicotine in e-liquids made no noticeable impact on weight gain at all, remaining consistent even in vapers using nicotine-free e-liquid. This observation lends credence to the potential behavioral replacement benefits proposed by the other researchers.
While the authors in both studies did mention possible concerns regarding the potential long-term impact of vaping, Dr. Linda Bauld of the Nicotine and Tobacco Research study says the research shows the benefits of using nicotine replacement therapies in smokers attempting to quit. Both groups of researchers noted more research would be needed, as there just isn’t enough information available to draw a final evidence-based conclusion.
Obesity is a complicated condition that challenges public health organization efforts, as current prevention strategies frequently prove to be ineffective. Over the next several years it’s on course to overtake smoking as the leading cause of several costly preventable diseases and death. Given the economic and human cost of the global obesity epidemic, research on the potential of vaping to help regulate weight gain is well worth exploring.
Are you a former smoker who gained weight during cessation? Do you believe research like this is vital to help understand the benefits of vaping? Do you think vaping can help people keep off the pounds while trying to quit? Let us know the answers to any and all of these questions down in the comments, and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.