Study reveals nicotine-containing edibles (Solanaceae) provides a protective effect
Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that leads to shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with walking, balance, and coordination. It affects about half a million people in the United States although the numbers may be much higher. The average age of onset is 60 years, and the risk of developing Parkinson’s goes up with age, according to NIH Senior Health. Symptoms include facial, hand, arm, and leg tremors, stiffness in the limbs, loss of balance, and slower overall movement. there is no cure for Parkinson’s, but symptoms are treated with medications and procedures such as deep brain stimulation.
In this new population-based study Dr. Susan Susan Searles Nielsen, PhD, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington – Seattle, and colleagues tested whether the risk of Parkinson disease (PD) is associated with consumption of nicotine-containing edibles from the same botanical family as tobacco, Solanaceae, including peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes, according to the study’s abstract.
The research team recruited 490 newly diagnosed idiopathic PD cases diagnosed during 1992–2008 at the University of Washington Neurology Clinic or Group Health Cooperative in western Washington State and 644 unrelated, neurologically normal controls. Questionnaires were used to assess participants typical frequency of consumption of peppers, tomatoes, tomato juice, and potatoes during adulthood, while adjusting for consumption of other vegetables, age, sex, race/ethnicity, tobacco use, and caffeine.
Vegetable consumption in general did not affect Parkinson’s disease risk, but as consumption of edible Solanaceae increased, Parkinson’s disease risk decreased, with peppers displaying the strongest association. Researchers noted that the apparent protection from Parkinson’s occurred mainly in men and women with little or no prior use of tobacco, which contains much more nicotine than the foods studied.
In their interpretation the researchers write “Dietary nicotine or other constituents of tobacco and peppers may reduce PD risk. However, confirmation and extension of these findings are needed to strengthen causal inferences that could suggest possible dietary or pharmaceutical interventions for PD prevention.”
Dr. Searles Nielsen stated “Our study is the first to investigate dietary nicotine and risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.” “Similar to the many studies that indicate tobacco use might reduce risk of Parkinson’s, our findings also suggest a protective effect from nicotine, or perhaps a similar but less toxic chemical in peppers and tobacco.”
This study appears today in Annals of Neurology, a journal of the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society.
A study published in The FASEB Journal , April 20, 2011, suggests that it may be feasible to develop novel therapies for Parkinson’s disease that target nicotine receptors, particularly the alpha-7 nicotine receptor. This study does not promote smoking but promotes the idea of finding non-toxic ways to hit the same target.
More information on Parkinson’s Disease and clinical trials can be viewed online at The Michael J. Fox Foundation.