Similarities in Food Cravings and Mood States Between Obese Women and Women Who Smoke Tobacco

Cigarette smoking is intimately related with body weight (see ref () for a review). Although the relationship is somewhat obscure in individuals who are currently smoking (some studies report smokers weigh less than nonsmokers (), whereas others find they weigh the same ()), men and women typically gain weight after they quit smoking (). Especially for women, concern about gaining weight is a powerful deterrent to quitting and an incitement for relapse to smoking (). The specific mechanisms underlying weight gain after smoking cessation remain unknown. Although changes in energy expenditure may account for some weight gain (), most is due to greater caloric intake ().

One reason why some women eat more after they quit smoking is because they confuse cravings for cigarettes with cravings for foods, and hunger (,). When abstaining from smoking, not only do women give in to these food cravings (), but as cravings for cigarettes become more intensified, so do cravings for starchy carbohydrates and fats ().

Another reason they eat more, especially highly palatable foods when abstaining from smoking, is to improve their dysphoric moods. Anxiety, depression and irritability are common symptoms of nicotine withdrawal and are manifested within 2–12 h after smoking the last cigarette (). Thus, smokers experience daily periods of stress and symptoms of abstinence between cigarettes (). Smokers may prefer to eat fatty and starchy foods to relieve withdrawal symptoms (), which may be due to decreased serotoninergic and dopaminergic functioning observed during nicotine withdrawal (,). Eating diets poor in protein but rich in carbohydrates or fat increases brain serotonin (,) and inhibits corticotrophin-releasing factor (). Such neurochemical and neurohormonal changes reduce stress and produce feelings of gratification and pleasure (). Of interest is the finding that smokers living in many cultures throughout the world typically eat diets high in fat and energy, despite the extreme variability in food availability and cultural food habits (,,).


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