Across the board, physicians agree: There’s no doubt that smoking is bad for you. But is it possible that there’s just something about a cigarette habit that might lower a person’s risk of developing Parkinson’s disease (PD)? Of course, smoking a pack a day to maybe prevent the onset of PD hardly makes sense — the adverse effects of puffing on nicotine cigarettes certainly outweigh any potential benefits. Still, the data on smoking and PD is too intriguing to ignore: looking collectively across many studies, it’s estimated that current smokers are 60 percent less likely to get PD than those who have never smoked. Which begs the question: Could there be a drug for PD hidden somewhere within the rolling papers? Researchers believe that maybe there is, and the potential therapeutic agent that they’re intrigued by is nicotine.
One finding, published in Annals of Neurology, revealed that consuming certain foods that contain nicotine, such as plants belonging to the Solanaceae family, could help lower Parkinson’s risk.
The study, led by Dr. Susan Searles Nielsen and her colleagues from the University of Washington in Seattle, included 490 patients who were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and 644 individuals without Parkinson’s (the control group).
The researchers gave the participants questionnaires asking about their diet and tobacco use.
They found that people who ate higher levels of edible Solanaceae were at a lower
risk of Parkinson’s disease compared to those who didn’t eat as much. Of all the foods that contained nicotine, the best protection seemed to come from eating peppers.
The protective effects of consuming foods containing nicotine were most noticeable in people who never used other tobacco products.