A recent study proposes that smoking could be linked to increased abdominal fat. Here’s why this finding is troubling.

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Another strike against smoking: A recent study suggests it may lead to an increase in a type of body fat associated with serious health issues.

The findings, published Thursday in the journal Addiction, indicate that both starting smoking and long-term cigarette use are linked to heightened abdominal fat. Dr. Germán Carrasquilla, the study’s lead author and an epidemiologist at Karolinska Institute in Sweden, noted that this increase appears to be primarily in visceral fat.

Visceral fat, located around the organs in the abdomen, can contribute to inflammation and raise the risk of conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes, Carrasquilla explained. The study underscores the importance of widespread efforts to curb smoking, as reducing this major health risk could indirectly lower the risk of other serious conditions, he emphasized.

Using a statistical method called Mendelian randomization, the research team assessed genetic differences to study the relationship between smoking and abdominal fat. While the study provides compelling evidence of a causal link between smoking and increased abdominal fat, it’s not yet definitive, cautioned Dr. Naveed Sattar, a professor of cardiometabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, who was not involved in the study.

Dr. Andrew Freeman, director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health in Denver, suggested that other unhealthy habits often accompany smoking, potentially reinforcing the link between smoking and abdominal fat.

A key question that remains unanswered is whether quitting smoking can reverse the accumulation of abdominal fat, Carrasquilla noted. Despite this uncertainty, he stressed the importance of quitting smoking for overall health improvement.

Quitting smoking is undoubtedly challenging, but support programs like the helpline 1-800-QUIT-NOW can be invaluable, Freeman recommended. He also advised removing smoking triggers from the environment and finding alternative coping mechanisms for stress.

Exercise, Freeman added, is not only beneficial for stress reduction but also aids in quitting smoking. Regardless of the approach taken, he emphasized the importance of being mentally prepared to quit and highlighted the numerous health benefits of kicking the habit.

Ultimately, the decision to quit smoking boils down to personal motivation and the desire for a healthier, more fulfilling life, Freeman concluded.

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