Other studies have found that smoking may decrease the risk of Parkinson’s in the general population, suggesting the possibility that nicotine may have some neuroprotective qualities.
“Damage to the nicotinic neurotransmitter system is one of the better correlates to a wide range of disorders,” said Doty, who has treated over 6,000 patients since the early 1980s, when the Smell and Taste Center opened at Penn. “Nicotine stimulates that system. Conceptually, if that system gets stimulated more, it may protect against damage that ultimately may be causing sensory problems and even some neurological diseases.”
Doty isn’t advocating for smoking, but the work does support further research to better understand the BMJ data as well as to find new, non-addictive ways to potentially treat patients with nicotine or some similar compound, he said.
Set to publish online in Lancet Neurology later this month, Doty’s newest study further explores the relationship between smell dysfunction and neurological diseases. Past studies of his, as well as others in the field, have indicated smell issues could be a harbinger of future disease.
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