Led by Dr. Laura J. Bierut, the research team took into account the genetic factors associated with smoking preference, which amount to 50%, and their impact on brain volume. The data analysis was based on information from the UK Biobank (2019) and involved 32,094 participants of European descent who self-reported smoking habits.
Quitting smoking is beneficial at any age
While confirming that smoking leads to brain shrinkage, the study underscored the consequences of this shrinkage, which involves the loss of neurons and their connections. This atrophy can impair brain function, particularly in critical areas like the hippocampus, which is crucial for memory formation. The research highlighted that smokers exhibit an “older” brain due to a decreased brain volume, which is normally associated with the aging process.
Dr. Bierut explained that smoking introduces various toxic chemicals into the body, leading to lower oxygen levels in the blood, which over time, starve the brain. Dr. Dung Trinh from the Healthy Brain Clinic in Long Beach, CA, emphasized that vascular damage, reduced blood flow, oxidative stress, and inflammation caused by smoking can result in cell/neuron death and atrophy.
The researchers highlighted that while the original brain mass cannot be recovered, quitting smoking is a crucial step to halt further brain shrinkage. Dr. Bierut emphasizes the importance of quitting, stating that it is never too late to quit, with health benefits felt even later in life. The research aims to draw attention to reducing modifiable risk factors for dementia in an aging population.
In conclusion, the study emphasized the protective effect of smoking cessation, encouraging smokers to try quitting at any age, and highlighted the modifiable risk factors for cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. Tobacco harm reduction (THR) experts would highlight that for those smokers who have tried and failed to quit, this study indicates the importance of at least switching to safer nicotine alternatives to decrease the damage caused by cigarette smoke.
Using vapes as smoking cessation aids
A recent study by a research team from the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, says that there is enough scientific evidence available to support the use of vaping products for smoking cessation in adults.
Titled, “Nicotine e-cigarettes as a tool for smoking cessation,” the study was led by Kenneth Warner, dean emeritus and the Avedis Donabedian Distinguished University Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health and published in Nature Medicine.
Warner and colleagues took a global view of vaping, analyzing the level of smoking cessation success of countries which endorse the use of vapes for smoking cessation and countries which do not.
They found that while North America acknowledged the potential benefits of vaping, e-cigarettes are not recommended for smoking cessation. On the other hand, in the United Kingdom (UK) and New Zealand there is high-level support and promotion of the products for smoking cessation, and this is reflected in these countries’ smoking rates.
“We believe that governments, medical professional groups and individual health care professionals in countries such as the U.S., Canada and Australia should give greater consideration to the potential of e-cigarettes for increasing smoking cessation,” said Warner. “E-cigarettes are not the magic bullet that will end the devastation wrought by cigarette smoking, but they can contribute to that lofty public health goal.”