Smoking: how it affects diet & nutrition

Dr Andy McEwen from the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training explains what effect smoking has on health and fitness and how quitting can add years to your life…

Q: How does smoking affect the tastebuds?

Smoking supplies the brain with nicotine, altering and suppressing a smoker’s ability to taste flavours. The reduced oxygen supply from inhaling tobacco smoke also contributes to the dulling of flavour recognition in the mouth. When smokers stop they regain the sense of taste they had before they smoked and food really does taste better.

Q: When you stop smoking how does your sense of taste return?

By stopping smoking the levels of nicotine in the body fall. Nicotine can be completely out of a person’s system within hours and once the nicotine has left your body, food begins to taste better and flavours are more noticeable.


balanced diet

Q: How does smoking suppress appetite? What effect can this have on a person’s health?

Nicotine suppresses appetite because of its effect on the brain and the central nervous system. Nicotine does not damage a person’s health – it is the tar and carbon monoxide from the cigarettes that can cause cancer, lung disease and coronary heart disease.  A varied and healthy diet is important for people’s health, and stopping smoking will increase your enjoyment of a wider number of foods.


Q: How does smoking affect your sense of smell and what effect does this have on diet & nutrition?

Smoking irritates the nasal passage which can cause inflammation and impair your sense of smell. This is unlikely to directly affect diet and nutrition but will undoubtedly influence your enjoyment of food.


vitamin C

Q: What effect does smoking have on your absorption of nutrients? Which nutrients suffer the most?

Smoking affects the body’s ability to absorb a variety of vitamins and minerals including calcium and vitamins C and D. Smoking also affects the body’s circulation by causing blood vessels to narrow and become blocked because of an increased build up of fatty deposits. Stopping smoking is an effective method of helping avoid deficiencies of vitamins.


Q: How does giving up smoking affect your energy and fitness?

Stopping smoking has a hugely positive impact on a person’s health, energy and fitness. The first two or three weeks of quitting can feel very difficult to get through for many smokers due to experiencing withdrawal symptoms and learning to cope with strong urges to smoke. However, after 48 hours the lungs are clear of carbon monoxide and by the end of day three breathing should become easier, bronchial tubes begin to relax and energy levels increase. After stopping smoking your circulation will also improve.

Compared to smokers, ex-smokers can expect to live longer, have fewer days of illness, have better fitness and energy fitness levels, and be healthier and happier.

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