Smoking linked to reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease

By Tom Nordlie • Published: July 19th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Here’s a man-bites-dog moment:

It seems that cigarettes could have a health benefit.

Scientists have found smokers are less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.

That’s a condition involving progressive breakdown of the central nervous system. It impairs speech, motor skills and thought.

A study published in the journal Neurology investigated the connection between Parkinson’s and smoking.

It wasn’t the first study to explore this issue, but it was the largest.

Researchers analyzed records from a previous U-S health study. Each participant completed an extensive questionnaire, and a follow-up survey about a decade later.

The researchers selected records for more than three-hundred-thousand men and women, none of whom had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s when the study began.

About ten percent of them were smokers.

Of the full study group, almost seventeen-hundred were diagnosed with Parkinson’s during the study.

Analysis showed that current smokers were only sixty percent as likely to develop Parkinson’s as participants who never smoked.

Among former smokers, the overall incidence of Parkinson’s disease was only eighty percent of the rate found in nonsmokers.

The number of cigarettes smoked per day didn’t seem to matter.

But among former smokers, the people who smoked the longest were least likely to develop the disease.

Now we’re not suggesting anyone should smoke to avoid Parkinson’s disease.

But this study does point out an obvious avenue for research.

If scientists can identify something in tobacco smoke that protects the brain from Parkinson’s, it might give rise to new medicines.

And that would be the silver lining on a particularly smelly and dangerous cloud.