There is more evidence to back up a long-standing theory that smokers are less likely to develop Parkinson's disease than people who do not use tobacco products, researchers reported on Monday.
The review also found that the effect seems to extend beyond cigarettes to pipes and cigars, and possibly to chewing tobacco, and that it persisted among those who had stopped smoking years earlier.
[Reuters, 9 July 2007]
How is this possible? How can smoking offer some sort of protection against developing Parkinson's disease?
Using tests performed on lab animals, scientists offered two possible explanations: first - there may be ingredients (carbon monoxide?) in tobacco smoke that protect the brain cells which produce dopamine, the neurotransmitter that is of low supply among Parkinson sufferers, and second - smoking may prevent toxic substances from obstructing brain function.
So, what does this mean?
Life is full of tough choices. We know smoking predisposes us to lung cancer but this study says it might protect us from being debilitated by Parkinson's disease.
Choose your disease, then? It would be nicer if we can decline both. But most cases of Parkinson's happen without explanation, with only a few cases having identifiable genetic, toxic, traumatic, and pharmacologic causes.
What's next in the treatment of Parkinson's?
Your doctor advising you to smoke. Wow. That would be a first!