Smokers tend to get pot bellies as well, study shows

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Pot bellies aren’t just limited to beer drinkers now as a new study has suggested that smoking could also lead to fatter stomachs.

Smoking has long been associated with lower overall weight gain, but researchers at University of Glasgow have found through their study that smoking tends to put fat into central areas – for example the stomach – that leads to a rather unhealthy apple shape bodies in smokers.

Giving another reason to kick the butt, the study was basically a meta-analysis of 29 previous studies involving almost 150,000 participants containing data on their smoking habits, weight and waist circumference.

Researchers suggest that there is evidence that cigarette smoking leads to lower BMI, but waist circumference was higher in smokers than non-smokers once BMI was accounted for.

The study found that there is a genetic variation in some smokers associated with an increase in the number of cigarettes consumed and a lower mean body mass index (BMI), and smokers with this variant consume an extra cigarette a day.

The study found that for every copy of the genetic variant associated with increased cigarette consumption, waist circumference increased by 0.14 per cent if BMI were to remain constant. The result suggests a preferential redistribution of fat towards the stomach.

Professor Naveed Sattar, of the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences who co-led the study, said: “One barrier to smoking cessation is the fear of weight gain and whilst smoking lessens weight overall, it tends to push fat more into the central area so waist circumference is preferentially higher.

“So, when smoker put on weight, they will show bigger tummies for same weight gain than non-smokers and this may also be linked to their greater risk for diabetes.

“On the whole weight goes down in smokers. That’s true at point of smoking, but it means smoking is lessening the chance of putting fat on in the ‘safe bits’.

“If confirmed, a tendency for smokers to acquire an ‘apple shape’ due to increasing central adiposity might provide a novel health promotion message to encourage smoking cessation.”