Although cigarette smoking is linked to the development of cardiovascular disease and quitting cuts that risk significantly, smoking cessation can cause substantial weight gain, increasing the likelihood of type 2 diabetes, researchers at the Indiana University School of Public Health, Bloomington, have found.

The finding, which was published in JAMA, provides insight into the potential health risks associated with smoking cessation.

The link between quitting smoking and weight gain has already been established in previous studies. Researchers from INSERM, France, and the University of Birmingham, UK, reported in the BMJ (British Medical Journal), that people who give up smoking generally put on 4 to 5 kg (9 to 11 lbs). The authors emphasized that although people put on more weight after giving up smoking than previously thought, the benefits of being a non-smoker far outweigh any harms linked to weight gain.

Juhua Luo, Ph.D, lead author of this latest study, said that:

cigarette smoking is an important cause of cardiovascular disease, and smoking cessation reduces the risk. However, weight gain after smoking cessation may increase the risk of diabetes and weaken the benefit of quitting.”

Data gathered from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) allowed the researchers to determine whether postmenopausal women quitting smoking might be linked to weight gain or subsequent coronary heart disease (CHD) risk.

The study included 161,808 postmenopausal women recruited from 40 different locations between 1993 and 1997, aged 50 to 79. They were followed up every year.

The women without cancer or cardiovascular disease at the beginning of the study, or CHD at year 3, were followed up until they died or until September 30, 2010.

Of the 104,391 women who were followed up, 3,381 developed CHD. The researchers identified a lower risk of CHD among postmenopausal women who quit smoking.

However, weight gain after quitting smoking weakened the association significantly, particularly among women who put on more than 11 lbs.

A previous study published in The Lancet addressed this issue by recommending people to control their weight after giving up smoking to maximize the benefits for their lungs.

Despite an increase in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in some people who give up smoking, the health benefits associated with becoming a non-smoker are infinitely greater, experts say.

If you carry on smoking you risk developing a range of illnesses and conditions, including:

In an article published in Medical News Today in May 2013, experts concluded that, on average, smokers die ten years sooner than non-smokers.