A study out tomorrow shows that nicotine patches may improve memory loss in older adults, even non-smokers.
Researchers looked at 150 elderly adults with a mild decrease in mental function. Their memory loss and thought deficits were significant, but not as debilitating as full dementia. Half of the group received a medium-dose nicotine patch over the course of six months, while the others did not.
Memory, concentration and thinking skills were evaluated at the beginning of the study, and again at three months and six months. Those who wore the patch regained nearly 50 percent of their long-term memory. The other group worsened over the same six-month period.
In addition to activating the pleasure centers of the brain, nicotine also improves alertness and memory. But, the lead researcher cautions against becoming smokers or using nicotine patches without guidance.
“There are harmful effects of smoking, and a medication such as nicotine should only be used with a doctor’s supervision,” says study author Paul Newhouse, MD, of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.
There were, however, no serious side effects in this study among the people receiving the nicotine patch.
These findings are promising for adults with early signs of memory loss, as well as communities of color who tend to have higher rates of Alzheimer’s. This increased risk is thought to be due to the higher rates of high blood pressure and diabetes among black Americans — both of which are linked to the disease.