Among the many bad things that smoking causes is diabetes. Smokers have up to a 44 higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Watch your blood sugar, when you kick the habit.
Watch your blood sugar, when you kick the habit. iStockphoto.com
So smokers who quit should lower their risk of diabetes, right?
Not right away. A new, federally financed study of nearly 11,000 middle-aged people finds that those who smoked and quit have as much as a 73 percent higher risk of developing diabetes, compared to those who've never smoked.
The diabetes risk peaks three years after quitting. It takes a dozen years to fall completely to zero.
The reason isn't hard to guess. Many smokers gain weight after they quit. And weight gain is a potent risk factor for diabetes.
Study authors say the highest diabetes risk —- 344 percent above never-smokers — was in men over 60 who had smoked at least 20 cigarettes a day and gained nine pounds after quitting.
The results, which appear in the current issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, don't mean that people worried about diabetes should keep smoking. There are a whole packful of other reasons to quit—such as heart disease, stroke, emphysema and many types of cancer.
It does mean that quitters and their doctors should be mindful about the increased risk of diabetes. They ought to check blood sugar levels for signs of rising blood sugar. And maybe use nicotine replacement pills or patches to blunt the weight gain.
Authors of the study are from Johns Hopkins University, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, and University of North Carolina.
Correction: The original version of this post said the diabetes risk peaks at three weeks after a person quits smoking instead of three years, as the researchers found.