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Study: Cigarette Smoke Can Cause Weight Gain

Marianna Gomes
A new study shows that exposure to cigarette smoke can cause weight gain.

A new study shows that exposure to cigarette smoke can cause weight gain. The research was conducted at Brigham Young University and findings were published in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Previous research have found that smokers are insulin resistant. This new study focused on finding the cause of this insulin resistance that happens with cigarette smoke exposure. The researchers exposed lab mice to cigarette smoke daily for two months and then analyzed their whole body insulin sensitivity.

Study’s author Benjamin Bikman said the ones exposed to smoke put on weight. The researchers found that the smoke prevented the mitochondria in the cells from working, causing disruption to normal cell function and inhibiting the cells' ability to respond to insulin.

“If the mitochondria are compromised then that is a cell that can’t use fat effectively,” Bikman said.

In order to find a cause for all of this, they also injected the animals with an inhibitor that blocks the production of a particular lipid molecule in their bodies, and found that receiving this inhibitor ended up protecting the mice from the effect of the sidestream smoke.

During the study, the animals were fed a high sugar diet and the researchers noted that the animals exposed to the smoke and this diet gained a lot more weight than the mice unexposed to cigarette smoke.

“Our evidence suggests that one possible cause is the disruption in metabolic function,” said Bikman.

While the research focused on secondhand smoking causing weight gain, Bikman said it is actually worse for smokers who inhale more smoke that bystanders.

“They’re getting kind of two puffs, the puff from the cigarette which is probably not as bad --probably, I’m speculating -- and then the puff of every other breath they are taking while the cigarette is just burning right beside them as they’re holding on to it,” explained Bikman.

According to him, the significance of these findings is to bring to light another facet of cigarette smoke exposure. While more emphasis is usually put on its effect on the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, this study points out its effect throughout the body.

Marine Perot was a KRCU reporter for KRCU in 2014.