We’ve talked variously about the interrelations between smoking cigarettes and fat accumulation, most recently on June 25, 2019. (“As if smoking wasn’t bad enough”) The bottom line verdict on that subject is that while smokers weigh less than non-smokers and can be expected to gain 6 to 12 pounds if they quit smoking and that is the reason why some people, especially you girls, start in the first place or don’t want to quit, smoking is such a devastating killer that it makes obesity look like a fountain of youth.
So how does smoking cause weight loss and if it’s all about nicotine, what about just taking nicotine for weight loss, since just taking nicotine but not smoking does not cause cancer?
It seems like that would be a subject of lots of investigation but alas the study of how much weight loss you can get from nicotine without smoking does not exist so far. But that doesn’t mean there is not evidence for how it might work if were to be a weight loss drug. Furthermore, there is evidence that nicotine might be good for other things.
The body of humans and lots of other creatures have cholinergic receptors in the brain and muscles and fat and other places that trigger responses to the transmitter acetylcholine. There are two kinds of cholinergic receptors, nicotinic and muscarinic. The nicotinic kind are found in muscles and represents the way that nerves talk to muscles. The muscarinic kind are the receptors of the parasympathetic nervous system and can be activated by muscarine an alkaloid found in certain poisonous mushrooms. Nicotine and muscarine are both poisonous actually and are used in some insecticides. Both kinds of cholinergic receptors are also found in lots of other places and do lots of other things and are involved in lots of diseases.
The primary interest in nicotine involves it’s actions in the brain where it has been shown to improve concentration and accuracy and memory. But many of those studies were conducted in smokers who were asked to avoid smoking before a test dose and so improvements in test performance could represent the treatment of the downsides of addiction.
In fat nicotine decreases the activity of lipase the enzyme that controls fat entry into fat cells and increases hormone-sensitive lipase that is inside of fat cells and dissolves triglycerides into free fatty acids. Nicotine also has multiple ways that it can work in your brain to decrease hunger. (3) Nicotine also increases energy expenditure by actions on the brown adipose tissue system (4)
OK, too much information. But before you start chewing nicotine gum there may be other problems that should be worried about. First and foremost why do smokers have way more heart attacks and bigger bellies and have decreased insulin sensitivity even though they weigh less? Also what about the notorious addiction potential of nicotine. Smoking is more addicting than heroin in practical experience. Chewing tobacco and vaping also addicts people, I know some people like that. The theory for why smoking is so addicting is that puffing a cigarette causes a spike in the delivery of nicotine to the brain. And spike doses are addicting. Then why wouldn’t chewing Nicorette gum do that. But Dr. Peter Attia who chewed nicotine gum for years in self-experimentation, says that when he forgot to chew it he didn’t miss it. It must not have missed any wonderful benefits either.
John DiTraglia M.D. is a Pediatrician in Portsmouth. He can be reached by e-mail- [email protected] or phone-354-6605.