Recently, the book “Why French Women Don’t Get Fat” was exposed as a fraud because critics said that all French women smoke and smoking elevates your metabolism, as well as being a substitute for food, causing you to stay slim. Now we know this isn’t true. But what about nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke? New studies show that exposure to cigarette smoke raises the risk among teens of getting metabolic syndrome, a disorder associated with excess belly fat that increases the chances of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Pediatrician Michael Weitzman says, “The bottom line to me is: As we gear up to take on this epidemic of obesity, we cannot abandon protecting our children from secondhand smoke and smoking.” Metabolic syndrome was defined as having at least three of five characteristics: a big waist, high blood pressure, high levels of blood fats called triglycerides, low levels of good cholesterol, and insulin resistance, which can lead to ype II diabetes. Many adults who grew up in the 50s have these problems because baby formula, instead of breast milk, was touted as the modern way to feed your infant at that time. Not being exclusively fed breast milk for the first six months of your life can lead to metabolic syndrome. It also may be one of the major causes of breast cancers in the mothers.

Researchers have found that 6% of the 12- to 19-year-olds they studied had metabolic syndrome and that this number increased with exposure to tobacco smoke. When they Looked at overweight teens, the effect of smoke was even greater. 6% of those not exposed to smoke developed syndrome, but 20% percent of those exposed to secondhand smoke had it. Among smoking teens, 24% had metabolic syndrome, meaning that even actually smoking cigarettes did not keep them slim.

Weitzman doesn’t know why teenagers exposed to secondhand smoke are more susceptible to metabolic syndrome, but in adults, smoking has been linked to insulin resistance. Doctors know that smoking lowers levels of good cholesterol and raises blood pressure, which are two markers for the disorder.

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