Nicotine helps keep your body thin but it’s thinning out your brain

Quitting smoking it tough psychologically,  but for many smokers,   it is the fear of turning into a blob that keeps them puffing away,  despite the list of negative health effects.puffing brain

Nicotine will definitely keep the pounds off  because of its action as a central nervous system stimulant, but the brain ends up paying the price for this increased metabolic effect.  Nicotine provides its metabolic kick by  suppressing  appetite and boosting metabolism,  but the “kick” includes changes to the structure of the brain.  

Smoking thins the brain

A study published in Biological Psychiatry  shows that smoking causes the  left medical orbitofrontal cortex to thin out.    The more a person smokes, the thinner this area of the brain becomes.  A thin body is “sexy” but a thin brain ?  This could be a liability.

The cerebral cortex is a specific area of the brain responsible for “thinking” – it is the part of the brain that distinguishes you as a being of superior intelligence (i.e. human).   It plays a role in language, information processing, and memory.  Reduced cortical thickness is associated with reduced intelligence  and impaired cognition. 

Thin brains are not smart brains

 In fact, when scientists study the brains of old people, it is this region of their brain that has thinned out.  The thinner it is, the more doddery and forgetful the person. 

It is old news that smoking screws up your lungs, but it damages other bits of you as well,  including  making your brain old before its time. 

So what should you do ? 

To keep your brain in tip top condition avoid the nicotine habit.

 NB.   Take heart putting on weight is not written in the cards should you quit.  A recent study which analyzed women who quit, revealed  it can be done,  but it does need to be actively managed.

Simone Kühn, Florian Schubert, Jürgen Gallinat. Reduced Thickness of Medial Orbitofrontal Cortex in Smokers. Biological Psychiatry, 2010; 68 (11): 1061-1065

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