The long-term benefits of quitting smoking far outweigh the temporary metabolic risks, a new study reveals.
Scientists from Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health found that the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes initially increased after quitting smoking, but the chances decreased as time went on.
The research builds on previous studies where weight gain has been associated with smoking cessatio, and hoped to provide an explanation for this.
The Harvard team discovered the chances of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes peaked between 5-7 years after quitting, but the chances lowered afterwards.
The risk of developing type 2 diabetes risk factor in those who had quit for more than 30 years eventually dropped to the same level of those who had never smoked.
Dr Qi Su, from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Bosto, said: “Smokers should quit because the long-term benefits are clear”. Adding that the initial weight gain that commonly follows when someone quits smoking does not appear to increase the risks of heart disease or earlier death. Indeed, heart health and life expectancy improve as a result of quitting smoking.
Dr Sun pointed out that preventing excessive weight gain, however, would help to maximise the benefits of stopping smoking by reducing the risks of developing diabetes and improving long-term health overall.
The study involved the team looking at health information from more than 171,000 people. They identified those who had quit smoking and recorded their body weight. They discovered those who quit had about a 22% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes when compared with those who continued to smoke.
The risk of developing the condition increased when more weight was gained, but for those whose weight remained the samen, the chance was no greater. The risk peaked between 5-7 post-quitting before decreasing.
Dr Sun added: “The finding that the elevated risk only lasts for five to seven years should be seen as reassuring. There are a lot of health benefits associated with stopping smoking, and the diabetes risk is modifiable by keeping weight gain to a minimum.”
The study results have been published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.

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