It is known that smoking has many harmful effects on our body. Tobacco contains nicotine, which can constrict blood vessels, increase the blood pressure, and stimulate the heart, and raise the blood fat levels.
However, a recent study published in Journal of Toxicology shows that nicotine may help treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Researchers from Texas A&M University conducted the study. They focused on the possible medical uses of nicotine, because it is a mild brain stimulant.
To test the effects of nicotine on aging brain, researchers evaluated mice’s chronic exposure to low, medium, and high levels of nicotine in drinking water. The mice’s body weight and food intake were recorded.
After three weeks, researchers found that the mice who took high levels of nicotine showed less food intake and lower body weight. Furthermore, the neural activity of cortex and hippocampus was changed.
Hippocampus is a brain region important for learning and memory. People who have lost brain cells in the hippocampus area of the brain are more likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers tested the behavior of the high-dose nicotine group and found no significant change. These mice did not get more anxious or show worrying behavior.
The next step is to test nicotine’s anti-aging effects using aged animal models. Some previous results have shown that nicotine can keep older individuals from gaining weight, but whether the lower body mass index (BMI) is related to less degeneration of the brain is unknown.
Researchers suggest that because the clear anti-aging effects in nicotine is still unknown, the current finding does not encourage people to smoke. On the other hand, the medical value of nicotine should not be ignored or abandoned.
Future work will also focus on large-scale clinical trials. Before clearer findings are published, it is better to use the addictive drug carefully to avoid the potential health risks.
Citation: Huang PS, et al. (2015). Evaluation of Chronic Oral Nicotine Treatment in Food Consumption, Body Weight and [125I] Epibatidine Binding in Adult Mice. Journal of Toxicology. LINK: http://juniperpublishers.com/oajt/pdf/OAJT.MS.ID.555552.pdf.
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