Smoking Shrinks The Brain, And Quitting Doesn’t Restore Size

A recent study published in Biological Psychiatry: Global Open Science has revealed that smoking shrinks the brain and quitting doesn’t restore size.

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A recent study demonstrates that smoking causes the brain to shrink and that quitting does not undo the damage. The results contribute to the understanding of why smokers are more likely to experience Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive impairment.

The good news is that the shrinking stops as soon as the smoker gives up.

The study examined data from 32,094 people of European heritage who smoked every day. It was published in Biological Psychiatry: Global Open Science. The information originated from the UK Biobank, a publicly accessible biological database that includes behavioral, medical, and genetic data on almost 500,000 individuals.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis discovered that daily smoking reduced a person’s total brain volume, which included both gray and white matter. The results showed that gray brain matter was reduced more than white brain matter. Neural cell bodies, axon terminals, and dendrites are all housed in gray matter, which is mostly located in the brain stem, cerebellum, and cerebrum. It is in charge of the central nervous system, which gives an individual control over their emotions, memory, and movement. Bundles of myelin-coated axons fill the white matter. Sending impulses up and down the spinal cord in response to a stimulus received by the brain is its role.

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A person’s loss of brain mass increased with their level of smoking, according to a review of UK Biobank data. The research team acknowledged that there is some prior knowledge regarding the effects of smoking on the brain. They added, “The link between smoking and dementia demonstrates the detrimental effects of smoking that penetrate the brain.”

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The study team observed that regular smoking had an especially negative effect on regions like the hippocampus area, which is harmed by Alzheimer’s disease. According to the research team, smoking is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and hastens the illness’s onset. Their findings support this theory. The researchers hypothesized that smoking might be responsible for 14% of Alzheimer’s cases worldwide.

Alcohol Also Reduces Brain Volume

The researchers discovered that alcohol use has negative impacts on the brain in addition to smoking. Heavy drinking can shrink the brain, especially the subcortical brain volume, just like smoking does. The regulation of emotions, memory, and hormone synthesis is attributed to the subcortex. Additionally, subcortical structures support people in maintaining their gait, posture, and other actions.

According to studies, the chronic brain damage caused by smoking and alcohol consumption increases the likelihood of acquiring dementia or Alzheimer’s disease even after cessation of these behaviors.

Researchers think that protein accumulation in and around brain cells, similar to what happens to teeth plaque, is what causes Alzheimer’s disease. These proteins go by the names tau and amyloid, respectively. Tau tangles can obstruct the brain’s ability to receive messages. Although they acknowledge that they don’t know exactly what triggers this process, researchers are aware that it can take years. But as time passes, the brain starts to shrink, which can result in Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the Washington University team, certain individuals are genetically predisposed to smoke. Stated differently, a portion of the population has a higher chance of developing the habit from birth. As a result, these individuals are more likely to have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, as well as diminished brain volume.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 22.3% of people worldwide smoked in 2020. Over 8 million people die from tobacco use every year, including 1.3 million nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke.

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