Cigarillo, Anyone?

On the heels of last week’s blog comes news of a compound called Continine. Anyone heard of it? I know it was news to me but the idea that something good could come of tobacco was not. W.C. Douglass, one of my favorite but very controversial health gurus, preaches on that very subject and has for years. Dr. Douglass firmly believes that taking tobacco smoke in to your mouth but not in to your lungs has a variety of health benefits. He actually recommends three good cigars a day to those with heart issues and feels it would counteract the detrimental effects of Alzheimer’s.

When I first read W.C. Douglass’ newsletter many years ago I did so with  more than a little skepticism.  Over the years I have come to admire his tenacity for the truth and his maverick approach to health care. He was, for instance, one of the first medical gurus that I read, who said drinking a bucketload of water every day was not a healthy habit. Lo and behold, people have died from drinking too much water.  I think the man has a lot of credibility, a bit of an odd way of saying things but credibility. I just could never quite buy his repeated recommendation of smoking for your health and I still waffle back and forth on the subject.

Dr. Douglass contends that nicotine can prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and, in fact, it is known that people who smoke have a lower incidence of these dread diseases. Now it has been reported by that a drug has been developed that is composed of Continine, a major by-product of nicotine metabolism. Continine, according to the researcher Valentina Echeverria, is non-toxic unlike nicotine and it is longer lasting than nicotine. Furthermore, she says, its safety has already been demonstrated in human trials designed to evaluate its ability to relieve tobacco withdrawal symptoms.

Continine, in studies done on mice, showed a 26% reduction of amyloid plaques, a characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease and also prevented the accumulation of amyloid peptide oligomers. It was also shown that Continine stimulated the signaling factor Akt, which promotes the survival of neurons and enhances attention and memory. Echeverria says “we found a compound that protects neurons, prevents the progression of Alzheimer’s disease pathology, enhances memory and has been shown to be safe”. OMG, what could be better? Kind of like discovering gold lolly if you ask me.

I repeat, I am not a fan of smoking tobacco but there is a part of me that wonders if there weren’t a huge gaggle of groups fighting moderate tobacco usage (anti-tobacco cartel) would it be unimaginable that a cigarette or cigar once, twice, thrice a day, smoked but not inhaled could actually have the same benefits as Continine at a mere fraction of the cost? If tobacco could be wrapped in non-toxic paper with no chemicals added is it possible, as Dr. Douglas and Wanda Hamilton say, that we could prevent or treat such diseases as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Tourette’s, ulcerative colitis and improve cognitive abilities? We will never know the truth, the anti-smoking cartel has too much power.

Anti-smoking campaigners aside, I think I have some very good reasons not to support smoking. From a dental hygienist point of view tobacco is pretty evil. If we stay away from all the things that Wanda and Dr. Douglass claim are just false accusations by the “anti-tobacco cartel” we are still left with the stain. I cannot tell you how difficult a hard core smoker makes my job. I don’t know if it destroys teeth, in fact it may have no harmful effects on enamel, but it sure makes them look ugly and the combination of coffee drinking (most smokers seem to like more than a pot of coffee a day) and cigarette, pipe or cigar smoking coats teeth in a black tar like substance that I literally have to peal off the surface of the teeth.

Another ugly side of tobacco use is seen in the mouth of the “chew” user. “Chew” when left in the same spot on a daily basis leaves the tissues pickled and pre-cancerous if not marked by cancerous growths. Most smokers also suffer a increased incidence of periodontal disease (in one study smokers had a 73% incidence of furcation involvement over a 20% incidence in non-smokers) but the cause might be debatable and that is a debate I don’t want to get in to in this blog. I conclude that from a dental perspective I could never endorse smoking, period.

Which brings me back to Continine and while I am not a proponent of the money that Big Pharma rakes in every day, nor the lunches their reps proffer to every medical office who lets them in with their booty, I can see the medical uses for a drug like Continine. My mother died of complications of dementia, whether it was Alzheimer’s or not we will never know as no post mortem autopsy was performed. If while she was still mobile and living at home, someone had come to me and told me all the benefits of Continine I would have lobbied long and hard to see that Mom was given such an opportunity.

On the other hand, and just to confuse things, might she have been just as well treated with a pack of organically raised, chemical-free paper wrapped leaves of nicotine containing tobacco? What if every night she sat after supper and had a cigarette or a small cigar in the privacy of her home? I can’t help but wonder if she could have avoided the slow mental decline in to her own demented world.  Could she perhaps have lived to her ripe old age of almost 92 but with her mind intact? I’m just saying, is it possible?

See you next week and I hope to have a little more clarity on the subject of the antioxidant called  PPQ.



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