Open Access Research article

Leptin and smoking cessation: secondary analyses of a randomized controlled trial assessing physical activity as an aid for smoking cessation

Semira Gonseth123*, Isabella Locatelli23, Raphaël Bize2, Sébastien Nusslé4, Carole Clair3, François Pralong5 and Jacques Cornuz3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California San Francisco, 1450 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA, USA

2 Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Lausanne’s Hospital, 1010 Lausanne, Switzerland

3 Department of Ambulatory Care and Community Medicine, University of Lausanne, 1011 Lausanne, Switzerland

4 Department of Environmental Science, Policy & Management, University of California, Mulford Hall, Berkeley, CA, USA

5 Department of Endocrinology, Diabetology and Metabolism, University of Lausanne, 1011 Lausanne, Switzerland

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:911  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-911

Published: 3 September 2014



Smokers have a lower body weight compared to non-smokers. Smoking cessation is associated with weight gain in most cases. A hormonal mechanism of action might be implicated in weight variations related to smoking, and leptin might be implicated. We made secondary analyses of an RCT, with a hypothesis-free exploratory approach to study the dynamic of leptin following smoking cessation.


We measured serum leptin levels among 271 sedentary smokers willing to quit who participated in a randomized controlled trial assessing a 9-week moderate-intensity physical activity intervention as an aid for smoking cessation. We adjusted leptin for body fat levels. We performed linear regressions to test for an association between leptin levels and the study group over time.


One year after smoking cessation, the mean serum leptin change was +3.23 mg/l (SD 4.89) in the control group and +1.25 mg/l (SD 4.86) in the intervention group (p of the difference < 0.05). When adjusted for body fat levels, leptin was higher in the control group than in the intervention group (p of the difference < 0.01). The mean weight gain was +2.91 (SD 6.66) Kg in the intervention and +3.33 (SD 4.47) Kg in the control groups, respectively (p not significant).


Serum leptin levels significantly increased after smoking cessation, in spite of substantial weight gain. The leptin dynamic might be different in chronic tobacco users who quit smoking, and physical activity might impact the dynamic of leptin in such a situation.

Clinical trial registration number


Smoking; Smoking cessation; Physical activity; Leptin; Weight gain