The cigarette smokers’ Paradox
Separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff:
BDNF, brain derived neurotrophic factor, is good.
Telomerase is good. *(See telomeres, telomerase, aging and disease note below)
Nicotine is good… since nicotine is known to increase blood levels of BDNF(53)
Tobacco Plants, Nicotiana
*>Age is the highest risk factor for some of the most prevalent human diseases, including cancer. Telomere shortening is thought to play a central role in the aging process in humans. The link between telomeres and aging is highlighted by the fact that genetic diseases causing telomerase deficiency are associated with premature aging and increased risk of cancer. Telomeres are crucial for genome stability: they prevent chromosome ends from engaging in illegitimate repair and ensure their maintenance by recruiting the enzyme telomerase, a reverse transcriptase that elongates telomeres (de Lange, 2005). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4958310
There has long been a question or so-called paradox related to the high levels of known toxins in cigarette smoke. As bad as cigarette smoking is for health, you might expect it to be much, much worse!
WTH! “Past and current smokers were less likely to develop cognitive impairment during a 10-year follow-up than were those who had never smoked. The present study suggests that smoking may be protective for cognitive function.”
But I will stick to rubbing fresh tobacco leaf juice on my skin for my nicotine fix…
Nevertheless, the present work suggests that procyanidins may have the ability to increase plasma BDNF levels and, perhaps, to a larger extent than caffeine itself. This is particularly interesting considering that recent research show that procyanidin oligomers play a role in neuroprotection from excitotoxic injury(50).
BDNF-dependent telomerase activity has been shown to promote neuron survival in developing hippocampal neurons(51). Increased BDNF expression and telomerase activity after brain injury suggest that telomerase may play a role in BDNF-mediated neuroprotection. Furthermore, BDNF has been shown to up-regulate telomerase expression and activity in spinal motor neurons(52). These neurons, treated with BDNF, are more resistant to ex-cytotoxic injury, presumably from increased cellular resistance to apoptosis. It is interesting to speculate that WCFC possibly may also exert an anti-apoptotic effect through telomerase by increased BDNF activity.
WCFC was tested under experimental conditions reducing impact of possible confounding effects; for example, non-smokers were not included in the present study, since nicotine is known to increase blood levels of BDNF(53). All subjects remained in the clinical site during the duration of the study to avoid any shifts in blood level of BDNF due to exercise and physical activity(34).
The final reference in the article above:
The relationship between cigarette smoking and cognitive impairment is not a simple one. Some studies have demonstrated that cigarette smoking is a risk factor for cognitive impairment in the elderly, whereas other studies have shown cigarette smoking to be protective against dementia.
The possible “hinge factor” could be nicotine.
500 years ago, as Monardes wrote in “Joyfull News out of the New Found World,” tobacco among other “discovered” medicinal plants was considered to be a cure-all, a panacea.
Bonus Marilyn Monroe sighting!