Even Your Metabolism Knows When You Quit

Smoking cessation reversed majority of metabolic changes caused by smoking

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) The human body can begin repairing the damage caused by smoking as soon as a person quits, even later in life. It really is never too late to quit.

A recent study looked at the blood samples of a group of men and women to see if smoking affected their metabolisms.

Results showed that smoking changed several metabolic agents, but quitting smoking could reverse the vast majority of those agents back to the status of someone who had never smoked.

"It’s never too late to quit smoking."

Tao Xu, PhD student, from the German Research Center for Environmental Health in Munich, Germany, led a team of fellow scientists on an investigation into what cigarette smoking does to the human metabolism.

Everything from oxygen to food – and even cigarette smoke – that enters the body must be metabolized. It’s the metabolism’s job to break down and process, both physically and chemically, any substance that enters the body.

Metabolites are the individual by-products of what happens when the body metabolizes a substance. 

For the study, the researchers took blood samples and smoking histories from 1,241 men and women from an ongoing study in Germany. The researchers compared metabolites in the blood of male and female smokers, former smokers and never smokers.

The results of the study showed that there were 18 different metabolites between men that were current smokers and never smokers.

There were six different metabolites between women that were current smokers and non-smokers. Three of those metabolites were found in both men and women, meaning 21 total smoking-related metabolites were discovered.

When the researchers compared current smokers to former smokers, they found that 19 of the 21 metabolites reversed back to those of a non-smoker.

Most of the metabolite reversing for former smokers happened within the first 10 years of quitting, according to authors.

“The smoking-related changes in the human serum metabolite profile are reversible after stopping smoking. This indicates the remarkable benefits of smoking cessation and provides a link to the cardiovascular benefits,” concluded the authors.

This study was published in March in BMC Medicine.

The German Federal Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Technology and the State of Bavaria supported funding for this project. No conflicts of interest were declared.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 24, 2013
Last Updated:
March 29, 2013