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Smoking often leads to poor diet, study finds

We are all aware that smoking is bad for your health, and can lead to health problems ranging from emphysema to lung cancer. But new research now shows that smoking may lead to making other poor health decisions as well.

A study published in the open access journal BMC Public Health has found that smokers have worse quality diets than former smokers or non-smokers. Researchers from Fairfield University and Yale University evaluated data from over 5,000 U.S. adults, and determined that smokers consumed about 200 more calories per day than non-smokers or former smokers – despite eating significantly smaller portions of food.

Smokers had diets that were high in energy density, meaning they consumed smaller amounts of food containing a greater number of calories,” explains Dr. Jacqueline Vernarelli of Fairfield University. “Non-smokers consumed more food which contained fewer calories.”

The results suggest that smoking cigarettes may be linked to a poorer quality diet. Data used for the study showed that the calorie dense diets consumed by smokers often contained fewer fruits and vegetables. This indicates that their intake of vitamin C is likely lower, which could put smokers at further risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

For many people who smoke, the advocate that one of the benefits of this unhealthy habit is that it keeps them from gaining weight. But those same results could be achieved by simply eating a diet lower in energy density, and maybe mixing in some fruits and veggies.

“We know from the literature that concerns about weight gain are barriers to quitting smoking, and we know that diets high in energy density are associated with higher body weight,” says Dr. R. Ross MacLean of Yale University. “Our results suggest that addressing the energy density in diets of current smokers may be a good target for interventions as part of a larger smoking cessation plan.”

The authors do caution that the study used self-reported survey data from the National Health and Examination Survey, so there could be recall bias among other contributing factors. Further studies will be needed to determine the cause and effect between diet quality and smoking.

By Connor Ertz, Staff Writer

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