Nicotine and Obesity

Tim Urban from Wait But Why had a great Twitter post this morning: It’s a chart showing the huge drop of smokers in the US over the past 40 years, along with the huge increase of obesity rates over the same period. His question is it correlation or causation? He follows up with one of his trademark graphics to give some options for people to choose from. Unfortunately, my take is it’s not that simple. As with any chaotic system… it’s complicated.

Are they connected? Absolutely. Nicotine is a well-known appetite suppressant. People that consume nicotine, regardless of form, find it easier to eat less. This isn’t controversial, and knocks down the option that they aren’t related. On the other side of the artificial fence, you have people that claim that this is the cause of America’s obesity issue, which I think is just as unsupportable. The variables that might impact this during this time period — a 40 year time span! — are myriad. Increasing carbohydrate consumption, less ruminant sourced meat consumption, increase of certain environmental contaminants, less vitamin D generated from the sun, more screen time, and yes, drastically less nicotine consumption. And I’m sure I’m missing a lot of variables that might be moving the needle.

My take on nicotine: it’s an under-appreciated drug that has some fantastic uses, but with obvious pitfalls that everyone should have the information to judge for themselves if it’s right for them. It’s hard getting solid information out there, as agendas drive seemingly everything. Yeah, it’s addictive and not free, and those are real issues. But the nootropic effects (clarity of mind, increased focus, better memory generation) and the appetite suppressant effects can’t be discarded. In 2022 you don’t need to burn dried vegetable leaves to ingest it, either, with some pretty safe ways of getting it into your bloodstream. Balance those and make your own decision!

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