|Nicotine gums are made for smokers. Smokers are leaner than non-smokers. Chewing nicotine gums helps you lean out... broscience? Logic? Or bullshit?|
Since this is the SuppVersity and not the bb.com bulletin board, I am not going to restrict today's analysis on the health issues. Instead, I will start by looking for scientific evidence that would confirm the common sense assumption that chewing nicotine gums does, in fact, promote weight loss -- in humans, not in rodents (Lupien. 1988).
Let's first take a look at the connection between nicotine and body weight management in general. In 2006 Chen et al. published an intriguing paper the title of which could in fact explain why smokers tend to be lighter than non-smokers (for US citizens that's ~ 3.7% leaner; cf. Albanes. 1987): "Cigarette Smoke Exposure Reprograms the Hypothalamic Neuropeptide Y Axis to Promote Weight Loss" (Chen. 2006)
According to Chen et al., the anorexic effects they observed in a 4-week rodent study are behind the anti-obesity effects of smoking. Similar effects on appetite in general and reductions in sugar cravings (Grunberg. 1982) in human studies as well. Nevertheless, if a reduction in appetite was the only beneficial effect of nicotine would be limited to phases of ad-libitum dieting. A direct effect on fat loss, as it is implied by broscience, on the other hand, would not exist.
Beware of becoming skinny fat! While the average smoker may be lighter, he is not necessarily leaner. The results of a 1989 study by Shimokata et al. show that smokers have higher waist-to-hip ratios and "indicate that there are harmful effects of cigarette smoking on the pattern of distribution of body fat" i.e. away from the harmless body parts, i.e. the extremities and right to the epicenter of unhealthy fat: the waist! Due to the fact that cigarette smoking is also associated with unhealthy eating habits (Dallongeville. 1998), it's yet difficult to tell, whether this effect is (solely) due to the cigarettes.If it was not for Schechter et al. and other scientists who report "nicotine-induced weight loss in rats without an effect on appetite" (Schechter. 1976), I could stop here and tell you that (a) you obviously don't want to chew nicotine gums for the rest of your life to benefit from its appetite suppressing phases and that (b) it wouldn't make sense to chew them in a phase, where you're counting calories, anyway (if you want the appetite suppressing effects, anyway, add caffeine, this will enhance them; Jessen. 2005).
|Figure 1: Body weight and food intake in 13-week rodent study with 0.4mg/kg and 0.8mg/kg (right) of nicotine administered in solution or saline control thrice daily (Schechter. 1976)|
If you take a close look at the results you will yet realize that there is a big caveat to the impressive weight loss (specifically in the 3x0.8mg/kg group | human equivalent ~ 3x4mg or three high dose nicotine chewing gums). Yes, I am talking about the nasty weight regain that occurred - likewise in the absence of increased food intakes - when the nicotine administration was seized.
Against that background, it's all the more important to find evidence from human studies. Unfortunately, the majority of studies on nicotine gums is not relevant to the topic, because they are (a) dealing with the success of smoking cessations, or (b) dealing with weight regain after smoking cessation. We will, therefore, have to resort to ostensibly unrelated results such as...
Figure 3: Plasma leptin levels in non-smokers, long-term nicotine gum users, and smokers after adjustment for age and body composition (Eliasson. 1999)
As suggestive as they may be, the increases in leptin are thus probably not relevant for short-term decreases in body weight - or even better body fat - as you would expect them when you're dieting.
- the association with hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance the same Swedish researchers from the Sahlgrenska University Hospital observed in a previous investigation (Taskinen. 1996) clearly suggest that the chronic consumption of nicotine leads to insulin resistance, metabolic abnormalities associated with the insulin resistance syndrome, and increased cardiovascular morbidity.
On the other hand, we are - I can't repeat that often enough - not talking about the chronic use of nicotine gums, but their (ab-)use for 4-6 weeks to propel your fat loss results. Eventually, the results are thus as irrelevant as the previously mentioned beneficial effects on leptin (see the previous bullet-point).
Figure 4: Thermogenic effect in 150min after the ingestion of nicotine and / or caffeine (Jessen. 2003)
It's also important to note that "[i]ncreasing the nicotine dose to 2 mg does not increase the thermogenic effect but produces side effects in most subjects." (Jessen. 2003) More is thus, as so often, not better for nicotine (a similar non-linear dose-response effect was observed with cigarettes, as well; cf. Collins. 1996). A previous study by Collins et al. (1994) found a 7.5% increase in resting energy expenditure with 200mg of caffeine and a similarly low amount of nicotine, i.e. 0.8mg of nicotine from cigarette smoke over a 3h period.
|Figure 5: The increase in thermo-genesis due to 4x20µg intranasal nicotine is impressive in men, not significant in women (Perkins. 1996)|
|Figure 6: Negative effects of nicotine on insulin sensitivity occur only in diabetics (Axelsson. 2001)|
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- Chen, Hui, et al. "Cigarette smoke exposure reprograms the hypothalamic neuropeptide Y axis to promote weight loss." American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine 173.11 (2006): 1248-1254.
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