People who smoke face a higher risk of illnesses and early death, and in addition to this, researchers have found that diets of smokers are frequently less healthy too.  Little is known about how exactly smoking affects dietary intake, but there are a few factors that may play a significant role. 

• Smoking affects smell and taste
Smoking supplies the brain with nicotine, altering and suppressing a smoker’s ability to taste flavours. The reduced oxygen supply from inhaling tobacco smoke also contributes to the dulling of flavour recognition in the mouth. These dulled senses can often lead to people seeking out energy-dense, flavoursome foods which are higher in sugar, fat and salt.

• Smoking suppresses appetite
Some people use cigarettes as a weight-loss aid taking full advantage of its appetite suppressant effect. However, as a result of poor appetite, these diets tend to be poorly planned and lack the variety of foods that should make up a healthy eating plan, including whole grains, vegetables and fruit.

• Smoking reduces the absorption of some nutrients
When comparing smokers with non-smokers, there is evidence to suggest that smokers have lower blood levels of vitamin C. It is thought that smoking can affect the body’s ability to absorb this and other vitamins and minerals, including calcium and vitamin D.  

So, should smokers try to eat healthier foods? There is no doubt that smokers should be far more conscious of trying to include a wider variety of foods into their daily diet. The focus should be on an adequate intake of plant-based foods, especially vitamin C rich vegetables and fruit. However, it may be difficult for smokers to enjoy these more wholesome foods as they may taste bland. 

Quitting smoking should be the prime goal, and it would be one of the best things you can do for yourself. Once you quit, you will be in for a pleasant surprise as your senses of taste and smell will start to recover and you will really be able to enjoy your food. Remember that science unequivocally affirms that smoking is one of the worst things you can do to your body and is more dangerous to your health than a few extra kilo’s.

Want to quit smoking? 
Try Smokenders, one of our partners. They have a 92% success rate in helping people quit smoking. Multiply members get a 25% discount. 

You might also want to read this post on TB and smoking

By Juliet Fearnhead
Locum Dietitian for Leanne Kiezer, Pick n Pay Dietitian