Eating nicotine may prevent Parkinson's.
But don't go chomping down a Marlboro sandwich just yet.
New research from the University of Washington in Seattle suggests that Solanaceae, a flowering plant family with some edible sources of nicotine, may protect against the movement disorder. The study appears in the current issue of Annals of Neurology, a journal of the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society. Eating foods that contain even a tiny amount of the substance, such as peppers and tomatoes, may reduce the risk, suggests the study.
Nearly one million Americans have Parkinson’s, with 60,000 new cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year, according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. Ten million people live with the disease worldwide. There is no cure, but symptoms can be treated with medication and procedures such as deep brain stimulation.
Researchers studied 490 patients newly diagnosed with Parkinson's as well as 644 unrelated individuals without neurological conditions. They used questionnaires to analyze participants' lifetime diet and tobacco use. They found that vegetable consumption in general did not affect Parkinson's disease risk, but as consumption of edible Solanaceae increased, the risk decreased. Peppers made the biggest difference. 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.
“Our study is the first to investigate dietary nicotine and risk of developing Parkinson’s disease,” said lead researcher Susan Searles Nielsen in a release. “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.” The authors recommend further studies to confirm and extend their findings, which could lead to possible interventions that could prevent Parkinson’s disease.