Carbon monoxide reduces obesity by boosting metabolism - is this how smoking helps you lose weight?

Nicotine + carbon monoxide = weight loss (+disease)

It is common knowledge that smoking inhibits weight gain, and up until recently scientists knew that this was due to finished appetite and also due to nicotine boosting lipolysis and inhibiting lipogenesis/adipogenesis in fat cells.

However, this study shows that chronic, low level treatment with a carbon monoxide-releasing molecule has been shown to prevent the development of obesity in response to a high fat diet.

Carbon monoxide is a well known poison produced from incomplete oxidation/burning (as in smoking) and as is widely known that high levels of it will lead to asphyxia and death.

Furthermore, scientists found that inhaling carbon monoxide only had a short term effect on weight loss in mice.

However, when used over 30 weeks, low levels of carbon monoxide released by a novel carbon monoxide-releasing molecule actually reduced obesity, and also obesity-related inflammation, insulin resistance and liver damage.


Smoking, fat and cellulite

This could be an additional mechanisms by which smoking helps prevent weight gain. However, I would not urge anyone to take up smoking just to benefit from this effect.

This is because smoking has a negative effect on circulation and also encourages the growth of fibrosis and collagen breakdown, leading to cellulite development, despite it's inhibitory effect on fat growth. Not to mention the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, due to the chemicals contained in tar...

  • For the moment we have to wait probably for several years to see if a safe and effective anti-obesity treatment can be offered, based on this breakthrough, or even if an anti-cellulite cream can be developed, based on this specific or a similar molecule.



  • Paper: Chronic treatment with a carbon monoxide releasing molecule reverses dietary induced obesity in mice.
  • Abstract: Chronic, low level treatment with a carbon monoxide releasing molecule (CO-RM), CORM-A1, has been shown to prevent the development of obesity in response to a high fat diet. The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that chronic, low level treatment with this CO-RM can reverse established obesity via a mechanism independent of food intake. Dietary induced obese mice were treated with CORM-A1, the inactive compound iCORM-A1, or saline every 48 hours for 30 weeks while maintained on a high fat (60%) diet. Chronic treatment with CORM-A1 resulted in a 33% decrease from initial body weight over the 30 week treatment period while treatment with iCORM and saline were associated with 18 and 25% gain in initial body weight over the same time frame. Chronic treatment with CORM-A1 did not affect food intake or activity but resulted in a significant increase in metabolism. CORM-A1 treatment also resulted in lower fasting blood glucose, improvement in insulin sensitivity and decreased heptatic steatosis. Chronic treatment with CO releasing molecules can reverse dietary induced obesity and normalize insulin resistance independent of changes in food intake or activity. These findings are likely though a mechanism which increases metabolism.