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Smoking and Alzheimer's disease: the last great tobacco claim

Smoking and Alzheimer's disease: the last great tobacco claim



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Published by Phantomimic
Smoking is a risk factor in Alzheimer's disease
Smoking is a risk factor in Alzheimer's disease

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Published by: Phantomimic on Feb 25, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Smoking and Alzheimer's disease
 by PhantomimicAll rights reserved © RAGG
For decades the tobacco industry mustered all its financial, legal and political clout to fight tooth and claw against the concept that their productwas harmful. Only in 1998 with the release of the previously secret internaltobacco industry documents, as a result of the Master Settlement Agreement,were the types of strategies the industry employed finally revealed to thegeneral public. The main goal was to raise controversy and make any anti-tobacco evidence look tentative. To this end, the tobacco industry sponsoredresearch designed to produce findings that were favorable to its positionwhile often hiding the extent of its involvement. The industry alsodisseminated favorable research to the lay press and policy makers whilesuppressing research that did not support its position. Fortunately nowadaysit is widely acknowledged as a rock solid fact that smoking is harmful to a person's health.Most people now know that smoking increases the risk of lung cancer. Butsmoking also increases the risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular  problems, atherosclerosis and stroke. For these reasons, smoking would beexpected to be a risk factor when it comes to Alzheimer's disease. InAlzheimer's disease the metabolism of the brain is compromised. Adding onthe myriad of health problems due to smoking would certainly not beconsidered to be helpful. This is especially relevant considering thatAlzheimer's disease is most common in elderly people who often have a hostof age-related health problems. Indeed, as expected, several studies havefound that smoking increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease.But there was a paradox.
Among the signaling systems that are compromised in the brain of Alzheimer's patients is the so called cholinergic system and there arereceptors within this system that can be stimulated by nicotine, which is present in tobacco. Thus, in theory, nicotine could "boost" this system tocompensate (at least for a certain amount of time) for its deterioration inAlzheimer's disease. Nicotine has also been found to increase alertness andenhance learning and memory. So, the argument grew that cigarettes, beingin effect a nicotine delivery system, could be helpful in Alzheimer's disease.Indeed, several studies have found that smoking in different contexts reducesthe risk of Alzheimer's disease and this notion has made its way to the lay press and cyberspace.But these claims have been controversial as many consider that the harmfulchemicals in tobacco would likely outweigh any positive effects of nicotine,and even if nicotine were found to be beneficial there are safer and moreefficient means of delivering it to the body than through cigarette smoke.However, the fact remains that, for the majority of people, the most commonnicotine delivery vehicle is smoking. Not surprisingly the tobacco industryhas funded research into this matter for the past two decades.In a recent article published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease by JanineCataldo, Judith Prochaska and Staunton Glantz, researchers of the Universityof California, San Francisco (UCSF), the authors did something that previous researchers in the field of Alzheimer's disease had not done. Normally when you perform a statistical evaluation of the scientificliterature regarding a certain topic you want to account for all the variablesthat can affect the outcome of the studies you are reviewing. This is called

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Shyam Adrift added this note
Thank you for pointing this one. No pride in being a smoker, I am just an addict who has been unable to quit!
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