Tags: Alzheimer's/Dementia | nicotine | protect | aging | brains | Alzheimers | Parkinsons

Can Nicotine Protect Aging Brains?

Can Nicotine Protect Aging Brains?

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By    |   Wednesday, 21 September 2016 01:17 PM

 

Everyone is in agreement that smoking cigarettes — or tobacco in any form — is bad for your health. Electronic cigarettes don't appear to be much better with recent studies showing they contain toxins, and have risks similar to smoking tobacco, at least on some cells in the respiratory tract.


However, nicotine alone could help aging brains, even protecting it from Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease.


Researchers at the Texas A&M College of Medicine found that nicotine's neuroprotective ability may be partly due to its ability to suppress the appetite.


They added nicotine to the drinking water of lab animals. Three different groups received nicotine at three different concentrations (low, medium and high). The concentrations corresponded to occasional, low and medium smokers.


There was also a control group that did not receive any nicotine.


The two groups that received nicotine at low and medium doses showed no nicotine in their blood, and they experienced no changes in food intake, body weight or number of receptors in the brain where nicotine acts.


In contrast, the group getting the highest concentration of nicotine ate less, gained less weight and had more receptors, indicating that at higher doses, the drug gets into the brain where it can impact behavior.


However, even at high doses, the nicotine didn't cause side effects like making the individuals more anxious.


"Some people say that nicotine decreases anxiety, which is why people smoke, but others say it increases anxiety," said researcher Ursula Winzer-Serhan, Ph.D.


"The last thing you would want in a drug that is given chronically would be a negative change in behavior.


"Luckily, we didn’t find any evidence of anxiety," she said. "Only two measures showed any effect even with high levels of nicotine, and if anything, nicotine made animal models less anxious."


Researchers will next test nicotine's potential anti-aging effects using aged animals.


Although early results indicate that nicotine can keep older individuals from gaining weight like the control group does, Winzer-Serhan doesn't know whether this lower body mass index translates into less degeneration of the brain.


"I want to make it very clear that we’re not encouraging people to smoke," she said.

"Smoking results in so many health problems that any possible benefit of the nicotine would be more than cancelled out. However, smoking is only one possible route of administration of the drug, and our work shows that we shouldn’t write off nicotine completely."


The research is published in the Open Access Journal of Toxicology.


Earlier research has also found that nicotine delivered by means other than tobacco, may have the ability to relieve or prevent a number of neurological disorders, including mild cognitive impairment (MCI), Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, and Tourette's.


A study conducted in 1966 found that non-smoking Korean war veterans had more than triple the risk of dying from Parkinson's disease than smokers.


 

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Everyone is in agreement that smoking cigarettes - or tobacco in any form - is bad for your health. Electronic cigarettes don't appear to be much better with recent studies showing they contain toxins, and have risks similar to smoking tobacco, at least on some cells in the...
nicotine, protect, aging, brains, Alzheimers, Parkinsons
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2016-17-21
Wednesday, 21 September 2016 01:17 PM
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