Contrary to popular belief that giving up smoking is good for diabetics, a new study claimed that kicking the habit sharply increases the risk of developing the disease.

American researchers found that quitters had a 70 per cent increased risk of developing type-two diabetes in the first six years as compared with non-smokers because they tend to put on weight.

The Johns Hopkins University team, however, stressed that smoking is a well known risk factor for type-two diabetes -- as well as many other health problems, such as heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Researcher Dr. Jessica Yeh said: “If you smoke, give it up. That’s the right thing to do, but people have to also watch their weight. Quitters tend to put on weight because smoking acts to suppress appetite.”

Type-two diabetes

The study, based on 10,892 middle-aged adults who were followed for up to 17 years, found that the risk of developing type-two diabetes was highest in the first three years after giving up smoking, the BBC reported.

Around 1.8 per cent of people giving up smoking developed type-two diabetes each year during that period. If quitters avoided developing the condition for 10 years, then their long-term risk returned to normal.

People who made no effort to give up smoking had a constant 30 per cent increased risk of type-two diabetes compared to non-smokers.

Type-two diabetes means the body either fails to make enough of the hormone insulin, or cannot make proper use of it, leading to uncontrolled blood sugar levels.

Overweight

One of the major risk factors for the condition is being overweight.

The researchers found those who smoked the most and those who gained the most weight had the highest likelihood for developing diabetes after they quit.

On average, during the first three years of the study, quitters gained about 3.8kg.

The researchers said doctors should keep in mind the importance of weight control when counselling people about giving up smoking.

The use of nicotine replacement therapy has been shown to blunt the weight gain associated with giving up smoking.

Exercise

Martin Dockrell, of the anti-smoking charity Ash, said: “The researchers are clear that smokers should quit but -- especially if you are a heavy smoker or are already overweight -- you might want to gently increase your exercise when you quit.

“If you are a smoker who is also overweight you should talk to your doctor about how to get the best from quitting.

“A little more exercise could help improve your sense of well being, reduce weight gain and undo some of the harm done by smoking leading to a healthier, happier you.”

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