Smoking is protective against Parkinson’s disease (PD)? It’s been nearly 55 years since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published their 1964 Surgeon General’s report on smoking. It is well established that smoking is linked to asthma, blindness and cataracts, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, and lung cancer (among others) but since that publication in 1964 more than 60 studies have been published showing that smoking does do one good thing – it protects against Parkinson’s disease.
It seems counterintuitive but epidemiological studies point to a protective link between cigarette smoking and a decreased risk of Parkinson’s disease. Even a study of children’s exposure to their parents smoking found that children exposed to secondhand smoke did indeed grow up to have less Parkinson’s. While nicotine itself may be the substance that is responsible for this protection, the data is conflicting. What exactly it is about smoking that protects against PD isn’t clear. However, a small amount of nicotine can fill most of the nicotine receptors in the brain.
While the protective link between smoking and PD is quite apparent, no one would take up smoking to protect himself or herself against Parkinson’s! What can we do to lower our risk of getting the disease or reducing symptoms – other than taking up a habit that will surely increase our risk of some other chronic condition?
No diet will treat PD but eating plenty of fruits and vegetables will give energy, fiber, and also increase hydration that can ease constipation, a common problem of PD sufferers. Some foods to avoid, as they interact with common medications prescribed for PD, are
– Aged Cheeses,
– Cured and fermented meats,
– Fermented vegetables (including soybeans and soy sauce), and
– Red wine
If nicotine is indeed the protective agent, getting it from dietary sources could be beneficial. Nicotine is found in the family Solanaceae that includes potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant. If you have PD, talk with your doctor about your meals and the timing of your medication. Your heart will thank you.
Dr. James Kneller treats atrial fibrillation, arrhythmia, and other heart conditions. He is an internationally recognized authority on cardiovascular health and personal development.
Gallo, V., Vineis, P.et. al. (2018). Exploring causality of the association between smoking and Parkinson’s disease.International Journal of Epidemiology, 1-14.
Gorell, J.M.,& Rybicki, B., Johnson, C.C., & Peterson, E.L. (1999). Smoking and Parkinson’s disease: A dose-response relationship. Neurology. 52. 115-9.
Ma, C., Liu, Y., Neumann, S., &Gao, X. (2017). Nicotine from cigarette smoking and diet and Parkinson disease: a review. Translational Neurodegeneration. 6:18