Nicotine in Nightshade Vegetables Linked to a Lower Risk of Parkinson’s

Parkinsonís disease is a movement disorder striking 1 percent of our older population and is the 14th leading cause of death in the United States. While we donít really know what causes it, we do know that people with a smoking history only appear to have about half the risk. Of course, ď[s]moking is†hugely damaging to health; any benefit derived from a reduction in risk of Parkinsonís disease is outweighed by the increased risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease,Ē as well as lung disease, but this shouldnít stop us from ďevaluating tobacco components for possible neuroprotective effects.Ē

Related: Is Something in Tobacco Protective Against Parkinson’s Disease?

Nicotine may†fit the bill. If nicotine is the agent responsible for the neuroprotective effects, is there any way to get the benefit without the risks?

Well, where does nicotine come from? The tobacco plant. Any other plants have nicotine? Well, tobacco is a nightshade plant, so itís in the same family as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers. And guess what? They all contain nicotine as well.

Thatís why you canít tell if someoneís a smoker just by looking for the presence of nicotine in their toenail clippings, because non-smokers grow out some nicotine into their nails, as well. Nicotine is in our daily dietóbut how much? The amount we average in our diet is hundreds of times less than we get from a single cigarette.

So, though weíve known for more than 15 years that thereís nicotine in ketchup, it was dismissed as insignificant. We then learned that even just one or two puffs of a cigarette could saturate half of our brainís nicotine receptors, so it doesnít take much. Then, we discovered that just exposure to second-hand smoke may lower the risk of Parkinsonís, and thereís not much nicotine in that. In fact, one would only be exposed to about three micrograms of nicotine working in a smoky restaurant, but thatís on the same order as what one might get eating food at a non-smoking restaurant. So, the contribution of dietary nicotine intake from simply eating some healthy vegetables may be significant.

Looking at nightshade consumption, in general, researchers may have found a lower risk compared to other vegetables, but different nightshades have different amounts of nicotine. They found none in eggplant, only a little in potatoes, some in tomatoes, but the most in bell peppers. When that was taken into account, a much stronger picture emerged. The researchers found that more peppers meant more protection. And, as we might expect, the effects of eating nicotine-containing foods were mainly evident in nonsmokers, as the nicotine from smoke would presumably blot out any dietary effect.

This could explain why protective associations have been found for Parkinsonís and the consumption of tomatoes, potatoes, and a tomato- and pepper-rich Mediterranean diet. Might nightshade vegetables also help with treating Parkinsonís? Well, results from trials of nicotine gum and patches have been patchy. Perhaps nicotine only helps prevent it in the first place, or could it be that it isnít the nicotine at all, but, instead, is some other phytochemical in tobacco and the pepper family?

Researchers conclude that their findings will be need to be reproduced to help establish cause and effect before considering dietary interventions to prevent Parkinsonís disease, but when the dietary intervention is to eat more healthy dishes like stuffed peppers with tomato sauce, I donít see the reason we have to wait.

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you havenít yet, you can subscribe to my free videos†here†and watch my live, year-in-review presentationsó2013:†Uprooting the Leading Causes of Deathand†More Than an Apple a Day, 2014:†From Table to Able: Combating Disabling Diseases with Food, 2015:†Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet, and my latest, 2016:†How Not to Die: The Role of Diet in Preventing, Arresting, and Reversing Our Top 15 Killers.

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heather g
heather g3 months ago

Interesting comment below.

Edmund C
Edmund C3 months ago

Am a male aged 60 and diagnosed with Parkinson"s at 59. I had some symptoms for a few years before diagnosis; stiff achy right arm and ankle, right hand tremor when typing, tiredness, body shivers, falls due to tripping. I was always active, bicycle riding to/from work daily and putting in 2 to 3,000 miles on my bicycle per year. i was on Mysoline 250mg in 3 doses for the essential tremor. Madopar 200mgfour times a day. Sifrol 1mg three times a day, I started on Health Herbal Clinic Parkinsons Disease Herbal formula treatment in November 2016, i read alot of positive reviews on their success rate treating Parkinsons disease through their PD Herbal formula and i immediately started on the treatment. Just 8 weeks into the Herbal formula treatment I had great improvements, my hand tremors seized. I am unbelievably back on my feet again, visit Health Herbal Clinic official website www. healthherbalclinic. net or email info@ healthherbalclinic. net.My have reduced my symptoms have so much reduced that now I hardly notice them.

Dennis Hall
Dennis Hall3 months ago


Mia G
Mia G3 months ago

Thank you

Winn A
Winn A3 months ago


Roxana Saez
Roxana Saez3 months ago


Renata B
Renata B3 months ago

How interesting. Thanks.

Melanie St. Germaine
Melanie S3 months ago


Ruth S
Ruth S3 months ago


Janis K
Janis K3 months ago

Thanks for sharing.