Risks associated with modest amount of weight gain following smoking cessation are overshadowed by the improved cardiovascular health in those who are able to kick the habit, according to findings published in JAMA.

In analyzing data on 3,251 participants enrolled in the NHLBI’s Framingham Heart Study, researchers examined the occurrence of cardiovascular problems such as coronary heart disease, stroke or heart failure in each of six groups: those with diabetes and those without the disease; current and non-smokers; and recent and long-term quitters.

They found that former smokers without diabetes had about half as much risk of cardiovascular problems as smokers; non-smokers had about one-third as much risk. Researchers then made statistical adjustments to account for weight gained by recent quitters, discovering that, even accounting for weight, the lowered risk remained nearly the same for recent quitters and the lowered risk for long-term quitters and non-smokers remained constant.

“Our findings suggest that a modest weight gain, around 5-10 pounds, has a negligible effect on the net benefit of quitting smoking,” said study co-author Caroline Fox, MD, MPH, senior investigator in the Laboratory for Metabolic and Population Health at the NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

“Being able to quantify to some degree the relationship between the benefits and side effects of smoking cessation can help in counseling those who have quit or are thinking about quitting.”