Smoking men break down mentally faster

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Smoking men with increased mental impairments

Smoking is considered a risk factor for dementia, with the negative effects of tobacco use on the brain being significantly more pronounced in men than in women, according to a comprehensive study by British researchers led by Severine Sabia from University College London (UCL).

As the researchers report in the US journal "Archives of General Psychiatry", smoking in men is apparently particularly "bad for the brain", while the differences in cognitive performance between smokers and non-smokers are significantly smaller. The scientists led by Severine Sabia from UCL had examined the effects of tobacco use on cognitive abilities in the course of their now published study over a period of more than ten years.

Relationship between smoking and brain development The aim of their comprehensive cohort study was to examine the relationship between smoking and brain development “at the transition from mid-life to old age,” the British researchers write in their current publication. Because smoking is known to be a possible risk factor for dementia, the effects in the older population may have been underestimated due to the generally shorter life expectancy of smokers. As part of her study, Severine Sabia and colleagues evaluated the data of 5,099 men and 2,137 women that had been recorded in the so-called Whitehall II study since 1997. The average age of the subjects in the first cognitive assessment was 56 years (age range of the study participants 44 to 69 years). In addition to tobacco use, a series of tests were used to determine the intellectual abilities of the study participants. The tests included, for example, studies of memory and vocabulary.

Cognitive decline in smoking men At the end of the study period, “cognitive decline” was significantly more pronounced in smoking men than in test subjects who had never smoked, report Severine Sabia and colleagues. The cognitive performance of smokers apparently remained unaffected by tobacco consumption. The negative effects of tobacco were also evident in ex-smokers, although according to the British researchers, the duration of the tobacco abstinence to date played an important role. The “long-term ex-smokers” (at least 10 years without tobacco) had comparable cognitive impairments to those of test subjects who had never smoked. In all tests - with the exception of vocabulary - the smoking men had performed significantly worse than non-smokers, the scientists write in the journal "Archives of General Psychiatry". In a commentary on the current article, neurologist Marc Gordon explains that the results of the British researchers are clear evidence of the negative effects of smoking on the brain - especially in men.

Smokers without impaired cognitive performance? Although the current study does not reveal why the men who smoke smoked significantly faster than women smokers, it clearly shows that women do not suffer from the same cognitive impairments as men from tobacco use. However, the researchers were unable to provide an explanation for this. This may be due to the relatively higher number of cigarettes per day among men, speculate Severine Sabia and colleagues from UCL. (fp)

Also read:
Lung cancer: smoking reduces the success of therapy
Diagnosis smoker's lung: disease rate increases
Immediate quit smoking symptom of lung cancer?

Photo credit: Thorsten Freyer /

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