Home » News » Mice Study Suggests Exposure to Smoke Can Lead to Weight Gain
Mice Study Suggests Exposure to Smoke Can Lead to Weight Gain

Mice Study Suggests Exposure to Smoke Can Lead to Weight Gain

While many people smoke as a means to control their weight, provoking new research suggests the effects of smoking can actually cause weight gain.

The finding comes with a caveat as the potential to gain weight comes from exposure to secondhand smoke.

“For people who are in a home with a smoker, particularly children, the increased risk of cardiovascular or metabolic problems is massive,” said author Benjamin Bikman, Ph.D., professor of physiology and developmental biology at Brigham Young University (BYU).

The study is published in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Experts say that half of the U.S. population is exposed at least once daily to secondhand cigarette smoke and approximately 20 percent of young children live with someone who smokes in the home.

Every day, almost 4,000 young adults smoke their first cigarette and 1,000 become habitual smokers.

Bikman and BYU colleague Paul Reynolds’ interest in cigarette smoke is tied to metabolic function.

In the study they wanted to pinpoint the mechanism behind why smokers become insulin resistant. To carry out their study, they exposed lab mice to side-stream (or second-hand) smoke and followed their metabolic progression.

Researchers discovered mice exposed to smoke put on weight.

When they drilled down to the cellular level, investigators found the smoke triggered a tiny lipid called ceramide to alter mitochondria in the cells, causing disruption to normal cell function and inhibiting the cells’ ability to respond to insulin.

“The lungs provide a vast interface with our environment and this research shows that a response to involuntary smoking includes altering systemic sensitivity to insulin,” Reynolds said.

“Once someone becomes insulin resistant, their body needs more insulin. And any time you have insulin go up, you have fat being made in the body.”

The key to reversing the effects of cigarette smoke, they discovered, is to inhibit ceramide.

The researchers found the mice treated with myriocin (a known ceramide blocker) didn’t gain weight or experience metabolic problems, regardless of their exposure to the smoke.

However, when the smoke-exposed mice were also fed a high-sugar diet, the metabolic disruption could not be fixed. Now Bikman and his team are in a race with other researchers to find a ceramide inhibitor that is safe for humans.

“The idea that there might be some therapy we could give to innocent bystanders to help protect them from the consequences of being raised in a home with a smoker is quite gratifying,” he said.

And what about the smokers themselves? Bikman said that one is easier said than done.

“They just have to quit,” he said. “Perhaps our research can provide added motivation as they learn about the additional harmful effects to loved ones.”

Source: Brigham Young University

Mice Study Suggests Exposure to Smoke Can Lead to Weight Gain

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Mice Study Suggests Exposure to Smoke Can Lead to Weight Gain. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 5 Nov 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.