Most of us are familiar with the compound nicotine and can easily associate it with smoking or vaping. Not only that, but nicotine has also long been seen in a negative light when it comes to its effects on the health of the person who ingests it.
It is known for its stimulant function and dependence-inducing effect. Nicotine is also considered as one of the chemicals that cause adverse health effects on smokers, such as respiratory illnesses, dental problems, digestive problems, and a link to the development of cancer.
Nicotine has received so much bad rap that many people believe that it’s a totally bad chemical. There are studies and research which show that nicotine does have some benefits on the body when used appropriately. Here, we’ll discuss the good side of nicotine use.
For Relaxation and Self-Medication
Tobacco is the primary ingredient in cigarette smoke that produces nicotine. Now, tobacco use has become versatile and is no longer limited to burning and inhaling cigarette sticks to get that relaxed and stabilized feeling. Snuff, snus, and nicotine pouches are just a few well-known alternative ways of delivering nicotine and the satisfying taste of tobacco minus the smoke. These products are popular in Europe, and there are many brands of snus and nicotine pouches that are available in the market. Aside from retail outlets, there are many emerging online stores that offer these products.
The relaxing effect is partly due to the stimulating effect of nicotine on the brain. The improved alertness results in a better perception and a calm state of mind. Also, nicotine interacts in various ways with nicotinic receptors that are spread across various parts of the human body. Some smokers and nicotine users report having relaxed muscles, unstiffened nerves, and improved flexibility of joints.
For people suffering from an anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, and depression, smoking and other forms of tobacco use are their ways of self-medication. They have a higher tobacco smoking or consumption rate than regular users due to a high reliance on tobacco, particularly nicotine, for maintaining a clear mind and a positive outlook.
Nicotine Improves Short-Term Memory
One of the good effects of nicotine is its ability to enhance the brain function for short-term memory recall. Going back to the earlier discussion about nicotine’s interactions with our body’s natural nicotinic receptors, a good number of these receptors can be found in the brain. Nicotine can have various interactions with these receptors, and boosting the neural connections is one of them. Improved transmission of signals from the brain to the neurons and vice-versa elicits good short-term recall, which is observed to be higher in smokers than in non-smokers.
Nicotine Enhances Cognitive Performance
Many of us would not believe it if we were going to say that nicotine has some brain performance enhancement effects. However, studies from the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom have shown that nicotine has neuroprotective properties, which helps improve the way our brains process information and protects these brain functions as well. Aside from its stimulant properties that keep smokers and tobacco users alert, nicotine also improves the coordination between the eyes and the brain, allowing for faster reactions and processing of visual information. The improved neural connections between the brain and the other senses in the body also speed up the processing of information and ensure seamless transmission of information, which is reflected externally as a good performance in tests and studies, daily household tasks, job accomplishments, and many other feats involving cognitive performance. Researchers are looking into ways where nicotine can be extracted as a chemical that can be safely consumed without adverse effects. Such a breakthrough can help revolutionize the supplements and other medications that are currently being used for improving cognitive performance enhancement and recovery.
Nicotine Aids in Weight Loss
People should not underestimate the various effects of nicotine on the body, especially how it interacts with our natural nicotinic receptors. Those who are actively following weight-loss diets, regimens, and other procedures can have a good reason not to stop smoking, vaping, or consuming tobacco while in a weight-loss program. Scientists from New Zealand and the UK have determined the metabolic effects of nicotine that can help burn fat. A nicotinic receptor called CHRNA2 is stimulated by nicotine to burn certain types of fat cells through a process called thermogenesis. The beige fat cells show the highest thermogenic activity, wherein it not only burns glucose, but it also burns other types of fat and calories. Although these effects do not translate into any significant physical changes, they work in conjunction with other weight-loss inducing activities that are being performed by people actively trying to lose weight. So now, weight watchers don’t have to feel guilty taking a puff or two while dieting, exercising, or taking weight loss supplements.
Nicotine as a Potential Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease
Nicotine has an effect on the brain’s reward center by activating the production of dopamine, which gives the sensation of pleasure and develops a sense of dependency on smokers and other tobacco consumers. However, there is another function that is opened up when dopamine is activated in the brain, and that is to regulate uncontrolled muscle movements.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that affects movement and is usually characterized by uncontrolled muscle movements like shaking, stiffness, unsteady gait, loss of balance and coordination, and other unnatural movements. The disease affects the dopamine-producing neurons and nerve cells, which translates into the loss of control or coordination of the muscles. With nicotine’s known effect for stimulating dopamine production, scientists are studying how to redirect the effects of dopamine from smoking and tobacco consumption towards neuroprotection and regeneration rather than inducing an addictive pleasure sensation. Patients who are suffering from Parkinson’s Disease turn to smoke and other methods of tobacco consumption as a therapy to reduce uncontrolled movements and relax muscle stiffness. Many researchers have found that cigarette smokers have a lower incidence of Parkinson’s disease than non-smokers, which can be mainly attributed to the regular stimulation and production of dopamine. Thus, in this connection, scientists are studying ways on how to use nicotine as a potential therapeutic agent for preventing or treating Parkinson’s Disease and its symptoms.
Nicotine’s negative association with smoking and addiction may soon change due to its emerging benefits. Scientists and medical experts are actively looking for chemicals and substances that can have therapeutic and protective properties to help treat and prevent diseases. Nicotine holds promise as a therapeutic agent due to its various interactions with the countless nicotinic receptors in the body. With this, people may be able to gradually see and appreciate the good side of nicotine.