THURSDAY, May 9 (HealthDay News) -- Eating vegetables that
naturally contain nicotine, such as peppers and tomatoes, may
reduce your risk of developing Parkinson's disease, according to a
Previous research has found that smoking and other types of
tobacco use are associated with a lower risk of developing
Parkinson's disease, and it is believed that nicotine provides the
protective effect. Tobacco belongs to a plant family called
Solanaceaeand some plants in this family are edible sources
This new study included nearly 500 people who were newly
diagnosed with Parkinson's and another 650 unrelated people who did
not have the neurological disorder, which is typically marked by
tremors and other movement problems. The study participants
provided information about their tobacco use and diets.
In general, vegetable consumption had no effect on Parkinson's
risk. The more vegetables from the
Solanaceaeplant family that people ate, however, the lower
their risk of Parkinson's disease. This association was strongest
for peppers, according to the study, which was published May 9 in
Annals of Neurology.
The apparent protection offered by
Solanaceaevegetables occurred mainly in people with little
or no prior use of tobacco, which contains much more nicotine than
the foods included in the study.
"Our study is the first to investigate dietary nicotine and risk
of developing Parkinson's disease," Dr. Susan Searles Nielsen, of
the University of Washington in Seattle, said in a journal news
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."
Nielsen and her colleagues recommended further studies to
confirm and extend their findings, which could lead to ways to
prevent Parkinson's disease.
Although the study found an association between consumption of
certain nicotine-containing foods and lower risk of Parkinson's, it
could not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
Still, one Parkinson's expert called the study "intriguing."
"It provides further evidence of how diet can influence our
susceptibility to neurological disease -- specifically Parkinson's
disease," said Dr. Kelly Changizi, co-director of the Center for
Neuromodulation at the Mount Sinai Parkinson and Movement Disorders
Center in New York City. "Patients often ask what role nutrition
plays in their disease, so it's very interesting that nicotine in
vegetables such as peppers may be neuroprotective."
Another expert said more research into the role of nicotine in
Parkinson's disease is already underway.
"The observation that cigarette smokers have a reduced risk for
Parkinson's disease has long been known, and has raised the idea
that nicotine may reduce the risk for [the illness]," said Dr.
Andrew Feigin, who is investigating the illness at the Feinstein
Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y.
"A nicotine skin patch is currently being tested in patients
with early Parkinson's disease," he said.
The illness occurs due to a loss of brain cells that produce a
chemical messenger called dopamine. The symptoms of the disease
include loss of balance, slower movement and tremors and stiffness
in the face and limbs. There is currently no cure for the disorder.
Nearly 1 million Americans -- and 10 million people worldwide --
have Parkinson's, according to the Parkinson's Disease
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
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