By Dr. Maurice Waka – Smoking has always been discouraged for all sorts of reasons ranging from accelerated aging process to risks of developing cancer to even formation of grey hair. The list is endless with every conceivable thought and even prejudice towards all smokers being laid bare. One thing is surely obvious, that once you start smoking, stopping requires either an experience with a tragedy, a miracle or one very good anonymous group rehab.
The Forgotten Truth
For several years, research has proven the following truths;
- Tobacco Smokers are rarely afflicted with Ulcerative Colitis
- Tobacco Smoking increases the body’s Basal Metabolic Rate and helps to prevent Obesity. Ex-smokers generally gain weight following abstinence from Tobacco smoking.
- Tobacco smokers have a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease compared to non-smokers (due to the Nicotine content). However Tobacco Smoking is NOT recommended as a preventive measure.
- Tobacco Smokers have a lower incidence of Parkinson’s disease compared to non-smokers.
How This Works
It has been shown that those who quit smoking end up with a rapid weigh gain by 4 to 5 kg with higher rates of up to 13 Kg. The answer to this lies in the brain. Within the hypothalamus, a part of the brain is a region called the arcuate neuron that contains receptors called melanocortin 4(MC4). These melanocortin cells control skin and hair color, making on light or dark colored to help prevent UV light damage to the skin. The MC receptors also help control weight gain or loss through the effect of nicotine. When nicotine binds to them it activates them leading to frequent appetite suppression. This is the key to weight loss.
There are other brain cells called the AgRP cells that are antagonists to the MC receptors in that when the effect of nicotine is not present, the MC receptors hibernate and the AgRp cells dominate thus promoting weight gain. It was shown through 15 yrs of study that when one restricts calorie intake, it activates these AgRp cells that promote appetite and thus weight gain, a reason never to miss meals in the name of weight loss therapy. Since AgRP antagonizes MC cells, when one is cutting down on calories, the MC receptors become dormant and the AgRP take over.
Nicotine is proving to be a major ingredient in the treatment and control of obesity, a modern medical condition that has yet to get treatment breakthrough. The future is therefore bright in that in addition to other benefits of nicotine, drugs are being developed to target the MC4 receptors. These are still in research stages but some show side effects such as increased heart rate and blood pressure.
How To Stop Smoking
The following drugs and foods are effective when used to quit smoking.
- Use of magnesium supplements to reduce craving.
- Prescription drug, Bupropion (150 mg per day for the first three days of treatment followed by 300 mg per day) may help persons attempting to “quit” Tobacco Smoking to avoid the Irritability and Anxiety associated with Nicotine withdrawal. Over 30.3% of those using Bupropion alone are able to successfully “quit” compared to 35.5% of those using Bupropion in conjunction with Nicotine patches.
- Prescription drug, Clonidine (normally used as an Antihypertensive)
- Nicotine skin patches, chewing Gum, lozenges, nasal sprays or inhaler may minimize Nicotine’s withdrawal symptoms.
- Vitamin C liquid solution sprayed into the Throat whenever Tobacco craving occurs reduces the craving for Tobacco.
The aspects of Tobacco Smoking presented in this article are aimed at maintaining objectivity and should definitely not be construed as a recommendation to “smoke”.