Peppers are one of those useful foods that can be implemented into a variety of dishes: There are stuffed peppers, sausage and peppers, roasted peppers. Theyíre delicious in salad, sandwiches and chili, and yummy when mixed with pasta, too. Itís always good to have hot peppers in your kitchen to give certain dishes that extra spice.
But a new study suggests a potential new, advantageous trait of these deliciously functional veggies that you may not have thought of: staving off the onset of Parkinsonís disease (PD).
According to the study published in the journal Annals of Neurology, those who consumed foods from the plant family solanaceae, such as peppers and tomatoes, may have a reduced risk of going on to develop PD.†
Whatís most interesting about these findings is why researchers believe these particular vegetables might help to prevent PD ó because they contain small amounts of nicotine. This relationship between nicotine and PD isnít new to scientists: Epidemiological data (in which patterns in comparative populations are analyzed) has long supported the idea that those who have spent years as smokers donít get PD as often as non-smokers.
In this case, the study team from the University of Washington was able to home in on nicotine as the benefactor by eliminating other factors; for example, they noted that general vegetable consumption did not affect PD risk. They also found that ďthe apparent protection from Parkinsonís occurred mainly in men and women with little or no prior use of tobacco, which contains much more nicotine than the foods studied.Ē
So what does it all mean?†
First off, itís important to note that this was a population-based, observational study, meaning that much more work would need to be done to see if biological evidence supports the patterns observed in the groups of people who participated.†
ďWhatís most interesting about this study is that itís the latest to suggest that nicotine might play a role in preventing the onset of Parkinsonís disease,Ē says The Michael J. Fox Foundation's (MJFF) Maurizio Facheris, MD, MSc. ďBut while we can certainly encourage people to eat more peppers, we donít yet understand how preventive a diet high in these vegetables might be.Ē
In the meantime, MJFF continues to support studies aiming to learn more about nicotine and PD. Just this past January, a clinical trial sponsored by the Foundation called NIC-PD launched in the United States (it was already up and running in Germany as well). Its goal: to explore the potential therapeutic benefits of those very same nicotine patches that people take to try and quit smoking.