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Living with a smoker can gunk up your lungs, but it also could make you gain weight.

New research from Brigham Young University suggests inhaling secondhand smoke raises body fat and throws off metabolism.

"This is adding fuel to the fire," says lead author Benjamin Bikman, "establishing just how lethal this habit can be."

Children who inhale such "side-stream" smoke at home are at a particularly "massive" risk of cardiovascular or metabolic problems, Bikman writes in the study released Monday. It's published in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Researchers found that lab mice exposed to the smoke gained weight. On a microscopic level, such exposure puts blinders on the cells that measure insulin, which regulates body fat. When that happens, the scientists said, the body gets the message there's no insulin left and starts pumping out more.

"And any time you have insulin go up," writes researcher Paul Reynolds, "you have fat being made in the body."

The smoke blinded the receptors by causing a lipid called ceramide to alter cell makeup. More studies will have to determine why the smoke drove ceramide production, researchers say.

Even so, Bikman says there's hope for children and others affected by "this horrific cocktail of toxins carcinogens."

Scientists may soon find a treatment to counter those effects in humans, so long as patients stay away from too many cookies, candy or other sweets.

Lab mice that received a "ceramide blocker" in the study avoided weight gain and metabolism issues. But the antidote only worked for mice on a low-sugar diet.

The treatment used in the study is toxic for humans, but Bikman and a host of drug companies are now searching for a safe one.