Chili Pepper is Good for You
The chili pepper is the fruit of plants from the genus Capsicum, members of the nightshade family, Solanaceae. Chili peppers originated in the Americas. Chili pepper has spread across the world and is used in both food and medicine. New research has revealed that Solanaceae—a flowering plant family with some species producing foods that are edible sources of nicotine—may provide a protective effect against Parkinson's disease. The study appears in the Annals of Neurology, a journal of the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society. It suggests that eating foods that contain even a small amount of nicotine, such as peppers and tomatoes, may reduce risk of developing Parkinson's.
Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. The motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease result from the death of dopamine-generating cells; the cause of this cell death is unknown. Early in the course of the disease, the most obvious symptoms are movement-related; these include shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement and difficulty with walking and gait. Later, cognitive and behavioral problems may arise, with dementia commonly occurring in the advanced stages of the disease. Other symptoms include sensory, sleep and emotional problems. PD is more common in the elderly, with most cases occurring after the age of 50.
Nearly one million Americans have Parkinson's, with 60,000 new cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year, and up to ten million individuals worldwide live with this disease according to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation. Previous studies have found that cigarette smoking and other forms of tobacco, also a Solanaceae plant, reduced relative risk of Parkinson's disease.
However, experts have not confirmed if nicotine or other components in tobacco provide a protective effect, or if people who develop Parkinson's disease are simply less apt to use tobacco because of differences in the brain that occur early in the disease process, long before diagnosis.
For the present population-based study Dr. Susan Searles Nielsen and colleagues from the University of Washington in Seattle recruited 490 patients newly diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at the university's Neurology Clinic or a regional health maintenance organization, Group Health Cooperative. Another 644 unrelated individuals without neurological conditions were used as controls. Questionnaires were used to assess participants' lifetime diets and tobacco use, which researchers defined as ever smoking more than 100 cigarettes or regularly using cigars, pipes or smokeless tobacco.
Vegetable consumption in general did not affect Parkinson's disease risk, but as consumption of edible Solanaceae increased, Parkinson's disease risk decreased, with peppers displaying the strongest association. Researchers noted that the apparent protection from Parkinson's occurred mainly in men and women with little or no prior use of tobacco, which contains much more nicotine than the foods studied.
"Our study is the first to investigate dietary nicotine and risk of developing Parkinson's disease," said Dr. Searles Nielsen. "Similar to the many studies that indicate tobacco use might reduce risk of Parkinson's, our findings also suggest a protective effect from nicotine, or perhaps a similar but less toxic chemical in peppers and tobacco."
The authors recommend further studies to confirm and extend their findings, which could lead to possible interventions that prevent Parkinson's disease.
For further information see Pepper Parkinson,
Pepper image via Wikipedia.