American study finds a link between quitting smoking and improved cholesterol profile
Smoking is to blame for approximately 20% of heart disease
deaths, according to statistics. While scientists haven’t been able to understand clearly what underlies the effect, they’ve suggested that lowered oxygen levels are to blame to some extent.
What’s more, smaller studies have associated smoking lowers good (HDL) cholesterol
and raises bad (LDL) cholesterol
, said Dr Adam Gepner of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison in the USA.
To analyse the effect of smoking on cholesterol
levels more accurately, Dr Gepner and his team of researchers followed 1,500 Americans. All subjects were smokers, while some were overweight
and obese as well. On average, subjects smoked 21 cigarettes a day. After a year on one of five smoking cessation programmes, 36% of the subjects were able to quit smoking.
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Dr Gepner and his team concluded that subjects who gave up smoking had an average rise in HDL cholesterol of 5%, the study read. Furthermore, they had an increase in large HDL particles. For a reason unknown to the researchers, the effect was stronger in women.
What’s also interesting is that it seemed it didn’t matter how many cigarettes subjects smoked per day at baseline – both heavy and lighter smokers reaped the same cholesterol benefits.
On the downside, quitting smoking may lead to weight gain
Unfortunately, there’s a downside to quitting smoking, the researchers found – weight gain! While the group of subjects who stopped smoking improved their cholesterol profiles, they also picked up an average of 4.5 kg. On the flip side, subjects who relapsed to smoking only picked up 0.5 kg to 1 kg.
At the start of the study, most of the subjects were overweight
with an average body mass index (BMI) of 29.6. Dr Gepner said that he thinks the weight gain may have offset some of the beneficial effects seen in the subjects who abstained. He explained, “Further benefits on cholesterol levels may have been actually masked by the weight gain seen after quitting.”
“It is important to counsel quitters about weight gain and the need for a healthy diet
and regular exercise
during the quitting period,” Dr Gepner added.