Treatment of Type2 Diabetes

Smoking cigarettes causes insulin resistance; Accelerates type 2 diabetes

Smoking reduces the effectiveness of insulin, inflames your whole body and increases the onset and severity of diabetes complications

Did you know smoking cigarettes makes you 30 to 40 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes? You already know cigarettes severely harm your lungs, your teeth, your throat…even your skin! (And smoking accounts for about 500,000 deaths per year, according to the CDC!)

But research continues to show that smoking cigarettes leads to tremendous insulin resistance, too. This means it not only contributes to the development of your type 2 diabetes but also makes your blood sugars increasingly more difficult to manage, too.

Researchers have actually concluded that nearly 20 percent of men and 5 percent of women with type 2 diabetes developed the disease as a direct result of smoking cigarettes.

And it can take up to 10 years after you quit smoking for your risk of developing diabetes to return to the same risk as someone who never smoked.

3 ways smoking cigarettes affects your diabetes

There are 3 ways that nicotine and smoking cigarettes increases insulin resistance and worsens your diabetes:

  • Nicotine makes your insulin less effective
  • Your entire body experiences inflammation when you smoke
  • Oxidative stress created by smoking increases diabetes complications

Let’s take a closer look.

Nicotine makes insulin less effective

Every time you consume nicotine (cigarettes, gum, chewing tobacco, vaping, etc.), you become significantly more insulin resistant. And it will take anywhere from 8 to 48 hours for that nicotine to leave your body. 

Most people who use nicotine are addicted, so you are likely consuming nicotine again well before the last consumption has cleared your body, keeping you continuously in a highly insulin-resistant state.

“We found a linear dose-response relationship between cigarette consumption and type 2 diabetes risk; the risk of type 2 diabetes increased by 16% for each increment of 10 cigarettes smoked per day,” explains a 2017 study from Japan.

The more nicotine you consume, the more you will struggle to achieve healthy blood sugar levels.

Your entire body experiences inflammation when you smoke

“Inflammation occurs when chemicals in cigarette smoke injure cells, causing swelling and interfering with proper cell function,” explains the CDC

Research from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology found that nicotine activates “neutrophils” — which are a certain kind of white blood cell. These cells release a type of molecule that increases inflammation throughout your entire body.

While every person experiences varying degrees of inflammation throughout their life — even in response to normal activity — the inflammation created by smoking cigarettes is significant and will have an undeniable impact on your health.

Oxidative stress created by smoking increases diabetes complications

Oxidative stress is a condition that develops when the smoke inhaled from your cigarette combines with the otherwise healthy oxygen in your body. Your entire body relies on the healthy delivery of oxygen to keep it healthy — and now it’s receiving oxygen that is severely contaminated.

For a person with diabetes already facing risks of diabetes complications like neuropathy, you’re delivering this toxic oxygen to cells, nerves, and blood vessels in your body that are already struggling to survive. This means you’re rapidly increasing the progression of your neuropathy — or retinopathy, nephropathy, etc.

Distinct studies of smoking in patients with diabetes have unambiguously confirmed an increased prevalence and a higher risk of early death associated with the development of macrovascular complications,” explains research from Poland.

If you smoke cigarettes as a person with diabetes, your risk of amputation or notable loss of vision, for example, skyrockets.

Quit smoking today

Quitting smoking may be one of the hardest things you ever do because nicotine is powerfully addictive. But cigarettes have got to go if you want to live a longer life, maintain your vision, hold on to your fingers and toes, and manage your blood sugar levels.

For more support in your quest to quit smoking, visit Lung.org.

Ginger Vieira has lived with Type 1 diabetes and Celiac disease since 1999, and fibromyalgia since 2014. She is the author of 4 books: Pregnancy with Type 1 Diabetes, Dealing with Diabetes Burnout, Emotional Eating with Diabetes, Your Diabetes Science Experiment. Ginger creates content regularly for Diabetes Strong, Healthline, HealthCentral, DiabetesDaily, EverydayHealth and her YouTube Channel. Her background includes a B.S. in Professional Writing, certifications in cognitive coaching, Ashtanga yoga, and personal training with several records in drug-free powerlifting. She lives in Vermont with two kiddos and two dogs.

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