A new study using data from 5,293 U.S. adults determined that smokers consumed around 200 more calories a day than non-smokers or former smokers, despite eating smaller portions of food. That means more snacking, treating treats like meals. This is in contrast to a time when smokers gained weight after they stopped, because they ate more to occupy their hands and mouths.
In the new paper, the authors used results from 5,293 adults who took the National Health and Examination Survey, a program of studies designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the US. Participants were asked to recall what they ate in the past 24 hours, which has some severe limitations.
The mean dietary energy density (kcal/g) was calculated after adjusting for age, sex, race, educational attainment, socioeconomic status, beverage energy density, physical activity and BMI. Daily smokers consumed 2.02 calories per gram of food while non-daily smokers consumed 1.89 kcal/g and former smokers consumed 1.84kcal/g. People who had never smoked consumed around 1.79 calories per gram of food. The authors suggest that any amount of cigarette consumption could be associated with poorer diet quality.
The calorie dense diets consumed by the smokers whose data was used in this study often included less fruit and vegetables, which means their intake of various vitamins was likely to be lower. Given the confluence of bad habits, the authors suggest that this could be even more ways that smokers are potentially at further risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.