It’s a common belief that if you quit smoking you’ll gain weight.
After all, Nicotine is a known appetite suppressant. It interferes with receptors in your brain that are related to flight-or-fight response, taking your focus away from hunger and putting it on safety, according to NPR.
But among the many health benefits related to quitting smoking is evidence that people who quit actually improve their metabolism, according to a new study.
The study, done at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles, Calif., looked at a group of smokers who quit (with the help of a prescription medication and counseling) over an eight-week period, then followed them through a 16-week maintenance period.
The study participants didn’t have any real change in their weight, said Dr. Theodore Freedman, lead investigator on the study. What they did observe was a change in where the now-former smokers stored their body fat and how much glucose they released into their bloodstream.
As time passed and the smokers smoked fewer and fewer cigarettes, their body fat went from being mainly stored in their abdomen to being stored in their thighs, said Freedman.
“When you have it in your abdomen it makes more of these inflammatory hormones,” said Freedman. The inflammation associated with belly fat is known to increase instances of diabetes and heart disease.
Quitting smoking also helps improve your liver’s handling of glucose, so Diabetics and people with pre-Diabetic symptoms don’t need to worry that quitting will worsen their condition, Freedman said.