Health

Lifestyle Medicine – Does nicotine have any benefits? – South Coast Herald

Lifestyle Medicine – Does nicotine have any benefits? – South Coast Herald

In the early 1970s, when I was a young medical student, Groote Schuur Hospital was still hailed as the site of the world’s first heart transplant.

Prof Christiaan Barnard became a celebrity overnight.

I was shocked when a local newspaper reported that he had advised his daughter to start smoking to control her weight gain.

But I think that was typical of the trend among clinicians at the time to separate lifestyle behaviors from medical interventions.

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However, you would expect someone of Barnard’s stature to recognize the dangers of smoking while dealing with its effects on a daily basis.

It is well known that nicotine has effects in weight control.

Many ex-smokers have discovered to their chagrin the problem of weight gain after overcoming their addiction to tobacco. Why is this?

dr. Michael Greger explains the science in his masterpiece How Not To Diet.

The energy source for all living things is the conversion of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) into adenosine monophosphate (AMP).

This releases two phosphate molecules, which can then be reabsorbed by the mitochondria in the cell to ‘recharge the battery’ when we eat more food (or when plants are exposed to sunlight).

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When we don’t eat, an enzyme called AMP kinase (AMPK) directs the body to burn fat — which is good news for people trying to lose weight.

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The problem is that AMPK also stimulates the appetite to recharge the fat reserves. This is where nicotine comes in. It blocks the appetite stimulation by AMPK.

How can we circumvent the negative effects of the main source of nicotine – tobacco smoking – while still reaping the benefits of AMPK blocking the appetite center?

Botanists tell us that tobacco plants are part of the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes, potatoes and peppers.

In fact, all of these plants contain small amounts of nicotine.

So in addition to being an excellent source of vitamin C, bell peppers can also help control obesity.

Other foods with a similar effect on AMPK include pomegranate seeds, goji berries, and a food I’m not familiar with but popular in the Middle East: barberry.

Apparently they are available in South Africa.

Another readily available AMPK modulator is vinegar.

A Japanese study showed that taking two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar per day (or 2 teaspoons per meal) resulted in 2.3 kg of weight loss over three months, and 1 tablespoon resulted in 1.4 kg, compared to weight gain in the placebo group.

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But when the study was stopped, the weight came back. So keep taking the vinegar.

Apparently there are a wide variety of flavors, even strawberry or chocolate vinegar – or you can just feed your gut bacteria with lots of vegetable fiber, and they’ll make the vinegar for you.

Does nicotine have any benefits? Yes, but certainly not from smoking.

Dr Dave Glass
MBChB, FCOG(SA), DipIBLM.

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