Worried about Alzheimers? Maybe nicotine could help you…

An elderly man with Alzheimers.

My aunt has Alzheimers.

It’s fairly early stages. She still recognised me when I met her recently, and can usually have a conversation.

But she is increasingly getting confused. Sometimes she thinks her money has been taken away from her and bursts into tears.

There may, however, be help for her.

Prevention

Some research suggests that nicotine can both help prevent Alzheimer’s – and help alleviate the effects when people have the disease.

  • According to Dr James Le Fanue: “Smokers have a 50 per cent reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s–and the more smoked the greater the protection.”
  • Out of 17 studies, 13 reported a reduced risk of Alzhimer’s, with 4 finding no difference.

Source: Nicotine Benefits (FORCES)

Treatment

  • Nicotine may alleviate side effects of other treatment. (Source: Science Daily)
  • A by-product of nicotine may help prevent plaques on the brain that are linked to Alzheimer’s. (Source: BBC HEALTH)
  • Nicotine is known to help concentration (see Are you smarter when you vape?).

But…

In the title we said maybe…

There is one piece of research that suggests nicotine may encourage the growth of Alzheimers.

Alzheimers disease is characterised by tangles (twisted fibres found inside the brain), and this study found that nicotine could encourage the growth of tangles in mice.

My aunt is desperate for anything that could help her think more clearly. (She’s still working, and has to hang on in their if she wants to get her pension.)

But until research comes up with something more conclusive, I think I am going to hold back from giving her nicotine patches.

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3 thoughts on “Worried about Alzheimers? Maybe nicotine could help you…

  1. I have no *bag* against smoking, but the thought does arise that the reason smokers are less likely to suffer from alzheimers is because they die early from cancer or emphysema.

    1. Hi Mike, I had the same thought initially, but as I understand it these studies took into account the lower life span amongst smokers. There’s also a more recent study which gave nicotine to people who were suffering from mild dementia, and these people experienced an improvement in memory while the control group (who were given placebos) continued to get worse.

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