Nightshades Protect Against Parkinson's?

June 04, 2013

A new study found that eating foods that contain naturally-occurring nicotine, may be able reduce the risk of Parkinson's Disease. Find out more here

A new study, published in Annals of Neurology, a journal of the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society, found that eating foods that contain naturally-occurring nicotine, foods from the Solanaceae family, may be able reduce the risk of Parkinson's Disease.
Parkinson's is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that causes a group of motor system problems. About 50,000 to 60,000 patients are diagnosed with Parkinson's each year, according to the National Parkinson Foundation. Nearly one million Americans have Parkinson's, and up to ten million individuals worldwide live with this disease. Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson's, but symptoms are treated with medications and procedures, and now potentially through foods.
Previous studies have shown that smoking and other tobacco use, also a Solanaceae plant with naturally occurring nicotine, may lower the risk of developing Parkinson's disease. While it was thought that nicotine may provide that effect, researchers weren't sure if different factors in the brain were causing the risk reductions.
For the present study Dr. Susan Searles Nielsen and colleagues from the University of Washington in Seattle recruited 490 Parkinson's patients at the University of Washington in Seattle's neurology clinic or at a regional HMO called Group Health Cooperative. In addition, 644 unrelated individuals with no neurological disorders were looked at as a control group. Questionnaires were used to assess participants' lifetime diets and tobacco use, which researchers defined as ever smoking more than 100 cigarettes or regularly using cigars, pipes or smokeless tobacco.
The study’s findings were quite surprising. Vegetable consumption in general did not affect Parkinson's disease risk, but as consumption of edible Solanaceae increased, Parkinson's disease risk decreased, with peppers displaying the strongest association. In fact, Solanaceae vegetable eaters lowered their risk by 19 percent on average. And those who ate the most peppers - about two to four peppers weekly - had the strongest risk-lowering association, about 30 percent.
Researchers also noted that the apparent protection from Parkinson's occurred mainly in men and women with little or no prior use of tobacco - which contains much more nicotine than the foods studied.
“Our study is the first to investigate dietary nicotine and risk of developing Parkinson's disease,” said Dr. Nielsen in a press 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.”
Other foods in the Solanaceae (or nightshade) family include, potatoes, eggplant, and tomatoes.
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