If you are a smoker, then you’ve likely heard nothing but the grave effects of smoking cigarettes. Now, while I would never condone smoking for any reason, I thought it would be interesting to see if there are any health benefits whatsoever to smoking tobacco. I don’t think it’s an excuse to light up, but for those of us who are just sick and tired of hearing the negative impacts of cigarettes all the time, it gives a small rebuttal to know that there are a few health benefits as well to smoking cigarettes. Who woulda thought?
Once again, I would never condone smoking. I have smoked, so I know it’s a nasty habit that is easily addictive (and super hard to quit once started). However, it is interesting to know that there is actually medically supported health benefits (however minuscule) to smoking cigarettes.
Apparently, smoking reduces the risks of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease in aging adults. According to medical studies, it is the nicotine that improves mental processes in the body and can keep Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s at bay or eliminate the risk entirely. In a study done on 19 smoking patients who were at risk genetically to contract Alzheimer’s, 15 of them had reduced risks in contracting the disease themselves, and none of them were showed to have an increased risk at all. “The risk of Alzheimer’s disease decreased with increasing daily number of cigarettes smoked before onset of disease. In six families in which the disease was apparently inherited, the mean age of onset was 4-17 years later in smoking patients than in non-smoking from the same family.” claims Conelia M. van Duljn, MSC, and Albert Hoffman, MD, of Erasmus University Medical School, of their findings.
A publication in Neo- Pharmacology in March, 1990, suggests that cigarette smoke actually reduces the risk of Parkinson’s. “Several epidemiological studies have indicated that there may be an inverse relationship between smoking and Parkinson’s Disease.” There’s an “apparent protective effect of cigarette smoke” (against Parkinson’s), the publication claims.
Why does cigarette smoking apparently aide against these neurological diseases? It’s the nicotine. In studies done by the Parkinson’s Disease Institute in California (led by Maryka Quik, PhD), it was found that nicotine helps protect the brain cells that produce dopamine from dying off as people age. People don’t get Parkinson’s disease until 80-90% of the dopamine producing brain cells die off, and according to the study, nicotine can reduce the loss of dopamine producing cells from 80% cell loss to 60%, therefore keeping Parkinson’s at bay. The study suggests that nicotine works by stimulating production of brain chemicals and helping nerve cells recover from injury, but the reason nicotine appears to reduce Parkinson’s disease risks is still unclear. This particular study was published in an online edition of the “Journal of Neurochemistry.”
In Alzheimer’s disease, nicotine works similarly to how it works in reducing Parkinson’s disease- by promoting the brain to release certain chemicals that keep the brain healthier, longer. In keeping Alzheimer’s at bay, the nicotine promotes the brain to release acetlycholine, which is necessary for prolonged memory and other brain benefits. The “nicotine transmitters” are the same ones that produce and release this helpful chemical, so studies suggest that the reason non-smokers get Alzheimer’s disease more frequently than smokers is because their “nicotine transmitters” are less productive than in smokers, and produce less acetylcholine. Huh.
While this isn’t enough evidence for the health benefits of smoking to make me want to pick up a pack again, it is minor food for thought. I will note in argument against these findings that my grandfather was (and still is) a pack a day smoker for over 50 years, and is so crazy with Alzheimer’s he believes he is 18 years old and hits on me all the time, thinking I am his girlfriend. Yikes. But these findings (there are many, many studies all over the Internet supporting the health benefits of smoking) are pretty interesting.
forces.org (which has many studies based on the health benefits of smoking, and is a site aimed at defending cigarette smoking in general)