Scientists have discovered a disturbing new side effect of smoking that can damage the brain. Brain shrinkage, known as cerebral atrophy, occurs naturally over time with age and is associated with symptoms such as disorientation, memory loss, blurred vision, muscle weakness, and loss of coordination. This condition has also been linked to neurological diseases, including Alzheimer's.
The study analyzed brain scans and self-reported smoking habits of 28,000 people from the UK Biobank. It found that daily smokers had brains that were 0.4 cubic inches smaller compared to those who had never smoked. Additionally, people who never smoked had higher brain volume than smokers. Each year without smoking contributed to a 0.005 cubic inch increase in grey matter volume.
The research indicated that the frequency of smoking also played a role in brain shrinkage. Participants who quit smoking experienced a reversal in brain mass decline, with every year of abstinence leading to a 0.005 cubic inch increase in grey matter volume. The study concluded that smoking cigarettes every day leads to a reduction in brain size.
Previous research had shown that smokers generally had smaller brains compared to non-smokers, but it was unclear whether smoking caused brain shrinkage or if people with smaller brains were more likely to smoke. However, this study provides evidence that smoking is indeed a causal factor in brain shrinkage.
Brain shrinkage, or cerebral atrophy, can have severe consequences for cognitive function and overall brain health. It is associated with various neurological disorders, including Alzheimer's disease. Understanding the detrimental effects of smoking on brain health is crucial for public health efforts to reduce smoking rates and promote healthier lifestyles.