Most people who stop smoking gain weight. This can discourage some people from making a quit attempt and risks offsetting some, but not all, of the health advantages of quitting. Interventions to prevent weight gain could improve health outcomes, but there is a concern that they may undermine quitting.
To systematically review the effects of: (1) interventions targeting post-cessation weight gain on weight change and smoking cessation (referred to as 'Part 1') and (2) interventions designed to aid smoking cessation that plausibly affect post-cessation weight gain (referred to as 'Part 2').
Part 1 - We searched the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group's Specialized Register and CENTRAL; latest search 16 October 2020. Part 2 - We searched included studies in the following 'parent' Cochrane reviews: nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), antidepressants, nicotine receptor partial agonists, e-cigarettes, and exercise interventions for smoking cessation published in Issue 10, 2020 of the Cochrane Library. We updated register searches for the review of nicotine receptor partial agonists.
Part 1 - trials of interventions that targeted post-cessation weight gain and had measured weight at any follow-up point or smoking cessation, or both, six or more months after quit day. Part 2 - trials included in the selected parent Cochrane reviews reporting weight change at any time point.
Screening and data extraction followed standard Cochrane methods. Change in weight was expressed as difference in weight change from baseline to follow-up between trial arms and was reported only in people abstinent from smoking. Abstinence from smoking was expressed as a risk ratio (RR). Where appropriate, we performed meta-analysis using the inverse variance method for weight, and Mantel-Haenszel method for smoking.
Part 1: We include 37 completed studies; 21 are new to this update. We judged five studies to be at low risk of bias, 17 to be at unclear risk and the remainder at high risk. An intermittent very low calorie diet (VLCD) comprising full meal replacement provided free of charge and accompanied by intensive dietitian support significantly reduced weight gain at end of treatment compared with education on how to avoid weight gain (mean difference (MD) -3.70 kg, 95% confidence interval (CI) -4.82 to -2.58; 1 study, 121 participants), but there was no evidence of benefit at 12 months (MD -1.30 kg, 95% CI -3.49 to 0.89; 1 study, 62 participants). The VLCD increased the chances of abstinence at 12 months (RR 1.73, 95% CI 1.10 to 2.73; 1 study, 287 participants). However, a second study found that no-one completed the VLCD intervention or achieved abstinence. Interventions aimed at increasing acceptance of weight gain reported mixed effects at end of treatment, 6 months and 12 months with confidence intervals including both increases and decreases in weight gain compared with no advice or health education. Due to high heterogeneity, we did not combine the data. These interventions increased quit rates at 6 months (RR 1.42, 95% CI 1.03 to 1.96; 4 studies, 619 participants; I2 = 21%), but there was no evidence at 12 months (RR 1.25, 95% CI 0.76 to 2.06; 2 studies, 496 participants; I2 = 26%). Some pharmacological interventions tested for limiting post-cessation weight gain (PCWG) reduced weight gain at the end of treatment (dexfenfluramine, phenylpropanolamine, naltrexone). The effects of ephedrine and caffeine combined, lorcaserin, and chromium were too imprecise to give useful estimates of treatment effects. There was very low-certainty evidence that personalized weight management support reduced weight gain at end of treatment (MD -1.11 kg, 95% CI -1.93 to -0.29; 3 studies, 121 participants; I2 = 0%), but no evidence in the longer-term 12 months (MD -0.44 kg, 95% CI -2.34 to 1.46; 4 studies, 530 participants; I2 = 41%). There was low to very low-certainty evidence that detailed weight management education without personalized assessment, planning and feedback did not reduce weight gain and may have reduced smoking cessation rates (12 months: MD -0.21 kg, 95% CI -2.28 to 1.86; 2 studies, 61 participants; I2 = 0%; RR for smoking cessation 0.66, 95% CI 0.48 to 0.90; 2 studies, 522 participants; I2 = 0%). Part 2: We include 83 completed studies, 27 of which are new to this update. There was low certainty that exercise interventions led to minimal or no weight reduction compared with standard care at end of treatment (MD -0.25 kg, 95% CI -0.78 to 0.29; 4 studies, 404 participants; I2 = 0%). However, weight was reduced at 12 months (MD -2.07 kg, 95% CI -3.78 to -0.36; 3 studies, 182 participants; I2 = 0%). Both bupropion and fluoxetine limited weight gain at end of treatment (bupropion MD -1.01 kg, 95% CI -1.35 to -0.67; 10 studies, 1098 participants; I2 = 3%); (fluoxetine MD -1.01 kg, 95% CI -1.49 to -0.53; 2 studies, 144 participants; I2 = 38%; low- and very low-certainty evidence, respectively). There was no evidence of benefit at 12 months for bupropion, but estimates were imprecise (bupropion MD -0.26 kg, 95% CI -1.31 to 0.78; 7 studies, 471 participants; I2 = 0%). No studies of fluoxetine provided data at 12 months. There was moderate-certainty that NRT reduced weight at end of treatment (MD -0.52 kg, 95% CI -0.99 to -0.05; 21 studies, 2784 participants; I2 = 81%) and moderate-certainty that the effect may be similar at 12 months (MD -0.37 kg, 95% CI -0.86 to 0.11; 17 studies, 1463 participants; I2 = 0%), although the estimates are too imprecise to assess long-term benefit. There was mixed evidence of the effect of varenicline on weight, with high-certainty evidence that weight change was very modestly lower at the end of treatment (MD -0.23 kg, 95% CI -0.53 to 0.06; 14 studies, 2566 participants; I2 = 32%); a low-certainty estimate gave an imprecise estimate of higher weight at 12 months (MD 1.05 kg, 95% CI -0.58 to 2.69; 3 studies, 237 participants; I2 = 0%).
Overall, there is no intervention for which there is moderate certainty of a clinically useful effect on long-term weight gain. There is also no moderate- or high-certainty evidence that interventions designed to limit weight gain reduce the chances of people achieving abstinence from smoking.