discovered a reason why
smoking greatly increases the risk
of heart disease and
stroke. Nicotine promotes
insulin resistance, also called
prediabetes, which is a risk factor for
cardiovascular disease, according to the new
study presented at The Endocrine Society.
Additionally, the study authors were able to partially
reverse this harmful effect of nicotine in mice by treating
them with the nicotine antagonist mecamylamine, a drug that
blunts the action of nicotine.
The study, which the National Institutes of Health funded,
was conducted by researchers at
Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science and
Western University of Health Sciences.
Their results may explain why
cigarette smokers have a high cardiovascular death
rate, even though "smoking causes weight
loss, which should protect against heart disease," said the
study's lead author, Theodore Friedman, MD, PhD, chief of
the endocrinology division at Charles Drew University.
Prediabetes and diabetes are known risk factors for
cardiovascular disease. Past studies show that
cigarette smokers tend to be insulin resistant, meaning that
their hormone insulin does not work properly. To compensate,
their blood glucose (sugar) levels become higher than normal
but not yet high enough for diabetes.
Smokers also have higher rates of diabetes, but it
is not clear whether smoking is the cause, because they
could have other risk factors, Friedman explained.
Some studies demonstrate that nicotine and cigarette
smoking induce high levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
"As cortisol excess is known to induce insulin resistance,
it has been suggested that glucocorticoids, such as
cortisol, are the missing [causative] link between cigarette
smoking and insulin resistance," Friedman said.
The new study results suggest this theory is correct, he
The Endocrine Society 11 06
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