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Scientists discover new horrifying effect smoking has on your brain
Featured Image Credit: Getty Stock Images

Scientists discover new horrifying effect smoking has on your brain

Scientists made the discovery after studying brain scans

A team of researchers have discovered a shocking side effect of smoking after studying brain scans.

Scientists from Missouri and North Carolina carried out their research by reviewing data from 32,094 Europeans in a dataset known as the UK Biobank.

They hoped to learn more information about the known links between smoking and decreased brain volume, pointing out in the study it is already known 'that there are associations between smoking behavior and lower total brain volume and gray and white matter volumes'.

"However, a significant question remains about whether these associations represent predisposing features for the risk of developing cigarette smoking or are consequences of cigarette smoking," they continued in the study, which has been published in the journal Biological Psychiatry: Global Open Science.

Using the UK Biobank data, the team looked at health behaviors, brain scans, and genetic risk factors before performing statistical analysis to try and determine whether smoking every day led to a decreased brain volume over time.

Smoking for a number of years can result in the loss of more brain volume.

“Up until recently, scientists have overlooked the effects of smoking on the brain, in part because we were focused on all the terrible effects of smoking on the lungs and the heart,” explained senior author Laura J. Bierut, MD, the Alumni Endowed Professor of Psychiatry.

“But as we’ve started looking at the brain more closely, it’s become apparent that smoking is also really bad for your brain.”

After reviewing the findings, the researchers came to the belief that smoking daily can result in a decrease in brain volume.

Heavier smoking can have even greater impacts, resulting in the loss of even more brain mass, and the more years a person spends smoking, the more brain volume is lost forever.

As well as shrinking the brain, smoking can cause it to age prematurely, according to the study.

In fact, the researchers estimate that '14 percent of global Alzheimer’s disease cases could be attributable to cigarette smoking'.

Giving up smoking can halt the effects.

“It sounds bad, and it is bad,” Bierut said. “A reduction in brain volume is consistent with increased aging. This is important as our population gets older, because aging and smoking are both risk factors for dementia.”

Unfortunately, the damage to the brain caused by smoking cannot be undone, but the researchers note that giving up the habit can halt the process.

Yoonhoo Chang, the study's first author and Washington University School of Medicine graduate student, commented: "You can’t undo the damage that has already been done, but you can avoid causing further damage.

"Smoking is a modifiable risk factor. There’s one thing you can change to stop aging your brain and putting yourself at increased risk of dementia, and that’s to quit smoking."

Topics: Health, Science, World News