Science, Tech, Math › Science The Science of Nicotine and Weight Loss Share Flipboard Email Print BSIP / UIG / Getty Images Science Chemistry Chemistry In Everyday Life Basics Chemical Laws Molecules Periodic Table Projects & Experiments Scientific Method Biochemistry Physical Chemistry Medical Chemistry Famous Chemists Activities for Kids Abbreviations & Acronyms Biology Physics Geology Astronomy Weather & Climate By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Chemistry Expert Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Hastings College Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Updated July 14, 2019 Many people have health-related questions about chemicals. One of the most common is whether nicotine promotes weight loss. We're not talking about smoking—which involves a complex set of chemicals and physiological processes—but using pure nicotine, which is available in over-the-counter products intended to help people quit smoking. If you search for information about the effects of nicotine, you'll find all sorts of research on smoking, but relatively little on the health effects of this one specific chemical. Nicotine's Effect on the Body A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), such as the Sigma Aldrich MSDS for nicotine, indicates nicotine is a naturally occurring isomer that is an acetylcholine receptor agonist. It is a stimulant that causes the release of epinephrine (also known as adrenaline). This neurotransmitter increases heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration, and also produces higher blood glucose levels. One of the side effects of nicotine, especially at higher doses, is appetite suppression and nausea. In other words, nicotine is a drug that raises your metabolic rate while suppressing your appetite. It activates the brain's pleasure and reward center, so some users may use nicotine to feel good instead of, for example, eating donuts. These are well-documented biological effects of nicotine, but they don't give a firm answer regarding whether or not the drug helps with weight loss. There are some studies that indicate that smokers may lose weight. Limited studies have been conducted regarding weight loss and nicotine use, in part because of the perception that nicotine is addictive. It's interesting to note that while tobacco is addictive, pure nicotine actually is not. It is the monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) in tobacco that leads to addiction, so people taking nicotine who are not exposed to monoamine oxidase inhibitors do not necessarily suffer addiction and withdrawal from the substance. However, users do develop a physiological tolerance to nicotine, so it might be expected that, as with other stimulants, weight loss from nicotine use would be most successful over a short term, losing effectiveness with chronic use. Sources Audrain, Janet E., et al. “Relationship between Obesity and the Metabolic Effects of Smoking in Women.” Health Psychology, vol. 14, no. 2, 1995, pp. 116–123.Cabanac, Michel, and Patrick Frankham. “Evidence That Transient Nicotine Lowers the Body Weight Set Point.” Physiology & Behavior, vol. 76, no. 4-5, 2002, pp. 539–542.Leischow, S. J. “Effects of Differing Nicotine-Replacement Doses on Weight Gain after Smoking Cessation.” Archives of Family Medicine, vol. 1, no. 2, 1992, pp. 233–237.Neese, R. A., et al. “Metabolic Interactions between Surplus Dietary Energy Intake and Cigarette Smoking or Its Cessation.” American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, vol. 267, no. 6, 1994.Nides, Mitchell, et al. “Weight Gain as a Function of Smoking Cessation and 2-Mg Nicotine Gum Use among Middle-Aged Smokers with Mild Lung Impairment in the First 2 Years of the Lung Health Study.” Health Psychology, vol. 13, no. 4, 1994, pp. 354–361.Perkins, K. A. “Metabolic Effects of Cigarette Smoking.” Journal of Applied Physiology, vol. 72, no. 2, 1992, pp. 401–409.Pirie, P L, et al. “Smoking Cessation in Women Concerned about Weight.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 82, no. 9, 1992, pp. 1238–1243.Schwid, S R, et al. “Nicotine Effects on Body Weight: a Regulatory Perspective.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 55, no. 4, 1992, pp. 878–884.Winders, Suzan E., et al. “Use of Phenylpropanolamine to Reduce Nicotine Cessation Induced Weight Gain in Rats.” Psychopharmacology, vol. 108, no. 4, 1992, pp. 501–506.