Nicotine therapies may have anti-aging effects on the brain, scientists say

Everyone knows that smoking causes respiratory issues, heart disease, and even cancer, but vaping and smoking are two very different things.  Combustible cigarettes rely heavily on the burning of tobacco leaves whose smoke is laced with deadly tar and chemicals.  Conversely, electronic vaporizers rely on e-liquids which are completely tobacco-free.

The only similarities between smoking and vaping is that they both contain nicotine.  In fact, many e-cig enthusiasts choose to vape zero-nicotine e-liquids instead.

Dr. Ursula Winzer-Serhan is a lead researcher from Texas A&M University, and she is one of a growing number of scientists and academics who are suggesting that nicotine is getting a bad reputation.  As the anti-vaping movement continues to escalate, more and more politicians seem to be confusing nicotine consumption with tobacco smoking when the true focus should be on their potentially adverse health effects.    

The Texas A&M nicotine study

In a recent paper entitled, Can nicotine protect the aging brain? (Science Digest), Ms. Winzer-Serhan claims that nicotine has the unique ability to act as a neuroprotective.  Evidence of this can be validated by any, average smoker who can attest to the fact that smoking tends to suppress the appetite.  Yet Winzer-Serhan urges caution.  Smoking is still very harmful to one’s health.

"I want to make it very clear that we're not encouraging people to smoke.  Even if these weren't very preliminary results, 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 Texas A&M nicotine study begins with Winzer-Serhan and her team of scientific collaborators placing liquid nicotine in the water dishes of animal subjects.  Three different groups were provided three different concentrations of liquid nicotine – low, medium, and high.

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The first two groups of animals – low and medium nicotine – exhibited no significant changes in body weight, food intake, or brain receptor activity.  However, the higher-nicotine group experienced measurable changes in all three areas.  The scientists then determined that higher dosages of nicotine tend to find their way to the brain, which in turn can result in these positive modifications in behavior without producing any negative side effects, such as increased anxiety.

“[T]he 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, it didn't seem to have worrying behavioral side effects like making the individuals more anxious, which the researchers were concerned could happen.”

And while the research indicates that nicotine ingestion separate from tobacco products may improve brain functions and cognitive abilities, Ms. Winzer-Serhan also states that “smoking is only one possible route of administration of the drug, and our work shows that we shouldn’t write-off nicotine completely.”

The results of the Texas A&M nicotine study are further supported by prior research conducted in 1990 by Dr. Paul Newhouse of Vanderbilt University in Nashville.  In a paper entitled Neuroendocrine, physiologic, and behavioral responses following intravenous nicotine in nonsmoking healthy volunteers and in patients with Alzheimer's disease (NCBI), the Newhouse team conducted a double-blind study involving 70 patients diagnosed with dementia and mild cognitive impairment.  After receiving transdermal nicotine therapies, participants experienced an approximate 46 percent improvement in memory functions on average.   

Related Article:  Research shows nicotine therapies slow onset of dementia & mild cognitive impairment

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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