Today in Medicine: Can nicotine prevent Parkinson’s?

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File photo of a woman receiving an injection. Credit: Metro

Topic of Study: Anti-cocaine vaccine
Location of study: U.S.
Study subjects: Mice, non-human primates
Results: Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College say they have successfully tested an anti-cocaine vaccine in primates, bringing them closer to launching human clinical trials. This study, published online by the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, compared the vaccine’s effect to that of Pac-man, in this case gobbling up cocaine in the blood before it can reach the brain.
Significance: Researchers state there are about 1.4 million cocaine users in the United States seeking to break their addiction to the drug. They hope that the anti-cocaine vaccine will render the drug ineffectual due to antibodies produced by the body when the drug enters the body.

Topic of Study: Nicotine and Parkinson’s disease
Location of study: U.S.
Study subjects: 490 patients newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, 644 unrelated individuals without neurological conditions as a control
Results: A study recently published in Annals of Neurology, a journal of the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society, found that eating foods containing trace elements of nicotine, such as peppers and tomatoes, might reduce risk of developing Parkinson’s. Researchers seem to think that Solanaceae, a flowering plant family that includes variants that are edible sources of nicotine, may provide a protective effect against Parkinson’s disease. Eating vegetables in general did not affect Parkinson’s disease risk, but as consumption of edible Solanaceae increased, Parkinson’s Disease risk decreased. Peppers displayed the strongest effect.
Significance: Previously, researchers have found that smoking cigarettes and other forms of tobacco, also a Solanaceae plant, reduced relative risk of Parkinson’s Disease, which is caused by a loss of brain cells that produce dopamine and results in facial, hand, arm, and leg tremors; stiffness in the limbs; loss of balance and slower overall movement. Experts are not sure if nicotine or other components in tobacco provide a protective effect.

Topic of Study: Fish vs. red meat in reducing cancer risk
Location of study: Canada
Study subjects: Meta-analysis
Results: Nutrition Reviews just published a report stating that people who eat red and processed meat are 40 percent more likely to develop oesophageal cancer than others who ate a diet with more fish.
Significance: It’s been thought that nitrates and other chemicals used in processed meat are carcinogenic. This new study provides more evidence that cutting down on red meat is healthier.

Topic of Study: Coumarin In cinnamon and cinnamon-based products
Location of study: U.S.
Study subjects: Data study
Results: The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reports that many cinnamon-flavored foods, drinks and supplements sold in the U.S. use a form of the spice that contains high levels of a natural substance, coumarin, which may cause liver damage. Cassia cinnamon, which is used as a cinnamon flavor in most American breads, sticky buns and other products, is cheaper than Ceylon, true cinnamon. Cassia was found to have higher levels of coumarin than ceylon.
Significance: The study results are similar to those out of the European Union.



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