Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Nicotine on the move

Just a quick post about moving, I was reminded by Tom Naughton's current post on his move.

We used a national company for the move, the driver plus three local helpers loaded the truck in Berkshire, he drove it up and two guys helped him unload at the Glasgow end.

All were thin as rakes. Obviously exercise makes you thin. Duh. These guys were exercising alright. Getting as many books as we own up the stairs, for storage in the bedroom cupboard, was no minor feat. This was almost certainly done on a diet of carbs and alcohol (not on the job of course, but one chap's comment was that he wouldn't want to attempt our Glasgow stairs on a Saturday night, crashing on the couch would be needed!).

At least that was how it seems on the surface. But in reality there is another factor involved. It brought home to me Gary Taubes' comment about nicotine releasing free fatty acids from adipocytes to allow humans access to the energy stored in their fat cells. Nicotine is an archetypal slimming drug.

Every 60 minutes there was an obligatory "fag break" as it was described. My impression was that they were automatically maintaining a fixed level of nicotine in their blood. Whether this was a fluke and we just happened to have six nicotine addicts in our crew, or whether people in hard manual labour accidentally discover that smoking makes the job a darn sight easier is open to speculation. But a few free fatty acids, irrespective of your insulin levels, might come in useful when you have to shift heavy stuff for hours at a time.

I doubt I'd have noticed anything without Gary Taubes giving the pointer.



Bris said...

One of my friends has been a geologist for nearly 50 years. He worked mostly in outback Australia. He says that back in the 60s and 70s his drillers would usually smoke while they worked. In fact he preferred to employ smokers because they were usually harder workers.

Nicholas Dynes Gracey said...

Hi Peter,
Nicotine also releases glucose from the liver into the bloodstream ... thereby helping prevent sudden collapse via 'NeuroGlycoPenia'.
Warm thanks; Nick
GMT 12:38hrs TUE.11.AUG.2009

Unknown said...

Next month in Men's Health: Wear a nic patch while lifting weights for increased energy and ripped abs!

Peter said...

Bris, interesting. They guy next door in Berkshire was very ripped, worked as a milkman, never did gym or the like (as far as I know) and smoked a great deal.

Brock, what happens when you take the patch off? Are people doing this? I guess it could be on a par with injecting insulin for bodybuilding effects but a bit safer...

Nick, I always think of NEFA as the best protection against low glucose (second only to not pushing it up in the first place), but I guess if it's crashing fast there's no way this modest form of insulin resistance acting on muscles would spare enough glucose to protect the brain...


Amber said...

Doesn't the loss of lung function negate the improvement in fuel utilisation?

greentree said...

Is that why I have gained 25 since quitting smoking last year? I know I am not eating more! I always thought that people gained weight when they quit smoking because they snacked more.

Valda Redfern said...

I was an enthusiastic smoker from the age of about 20 to 32. Smoking was a panacea for me - if I felt hungry or cold, smoking a cigarette fixed it. After stopping I gained weight gradually but inexorably for the next fifteen years. Now, on a high fat, low carb diet, I can once again tolerate missed or late meals, and in fact often do skip breakfast or lunch for the sake of convenience, just as I did in my twenties. I've regained my youthful fidgetiness, too. (Can't say I am or ever was ripped, though...)

Unknown said...

JK notices that too. Cigarettes, if used in limited amounts, stimulate parasympathetic nervous system. Overuse it - and the effect is exactly opposite.

Andrew said...

What do you make of the smoking rates / lung cancer rates in France and Japan? It seems as if the US has more lung cancer yet less smokers. Americans have more heart disease than the French, and eat less saturated fat. Americans have more lung cancer than the French, and smoke fewer cigarettes. Most sensible people would agree that the French do not have less heart disease in spite of saturated fat intake, but because of it. Could we say the same thing about smoking?

Is vitamin D deficiency implicated in lung cancer?

This http://www.forces.org/evidence/hamilton/other/oldest.htm
claims that many of the world's oldest living people were avid smokers.

In my own limited experience, it seems as if older people are worse off after they quit smoking. I'm not sure about frequency, but I still consider (perhaps in great error) things like coffee, cigarettes, cigars, and tea to be much healthier than oreos, sodas, and candy bars. What's everyone else's opinion on this?

It's difficult to find reasonable arguments for smoking--if anyone knows of any papers or sites please post them.

I've also come across people claiming that cigarette filters are terrible for you, and that the type of curing processes have different health effects.

ItsTheWooo said...

I always associate neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine) with the best way to keep energy substrate flowing and used well. I know this because my mood (presumably neurtransmitter controlled) completely predicts my appetite, activity tolerance (and craving), the general trend of my weight and eating. On days when I am hyper and giddy I pace in circles and am very unlikely to get hypoglycemia (unless I do something stupid like try to eat a lot to sedate myself, which rarely works and often results in hypoglycemia because I'll still persist in activity, and the vagal-mediated insulin release makes my sugar crash).

The point I'm making is that I wonder if it is the nicotine itself OR if it is the nicotine effect on neurotransmitters like dopamine which is really responsible for the increase in free fatty acids (which then results in greater energy from fat burning and higher blood sugar).

After all...caffeine can said to have similar effects, and contains no nicotine.

And, people like myself prone to variability of energy and mood (essentially using nothing) know we can get coffee/stimulant like effects simply by the virtue that our brains aren't as well stable as is typical. Random. Some days, barely able to move.

I just did a quick google and apparently yes, nicotine has this effect because it boosts catecholamines (dopamine).

I also suspect activity itself has some kind of dopamine-augmenting effects.
It may very well be that the movers were healthy and active specifically because their job is so physical. My carb tolerance is much better when I work the floor (nursing) than on a day when I lay around and read blogs.

This is where I disagree with Taubes; exercise does help with weight specifically because it lowers glucose, insulin, and augments fat burning. Exercise has nothing to do with burning calories. It works because it lowers insulin and uses up sugar and increases use of body fat. I don't think exericse matters much when we're talking about obviously metabolically broken people like the morbidly/significantly obese but for mild metabolic problems (20 extra pounds and some IGT for example)... the fact most people drive their SUVs to their desk jobs probably plays a big role in that.

gunther gatherer said...

Eureka! This could be some of the mystery as to why the Kitavans can eat so much starchy tubers and still say thin. They are apparently all smokers...

I occasionally smoke a pipe, and I often notice I'm jittery for about an hour afterwards. I also get immediately hungry but then the hunger goes away and I'm NOT hungry quite a while afterwards. It's a similar effect to caffeine, but without raising insulin I suspect. Coffee just makes me hungry (even with cream), so I cut it out because I found myself eating more. I suspect that was the caffeine that did it.

ItsTheWooo said...

Good point; caffeine, in addition to releasing catecholamines (as nicotine) also raises insulin. This may or may not cause hypoglycemia thus hunger/eating.

I tend to have no problem with caffeine induced hunger, assuming I am in the proper place to tolerate it (blood sugar otherwise good). But, my caffeine tolerance is disturbingly high due to increasing abuse so go figure.

gunther gatherer said...

And let me guess Peter, these movers had all their hair too... No balding or any indication of receding hairlines, etc.?

It's getting ridiculous how absolutely opposite the mainstream's "understanding" of health and aging is. The establishment is truly looking purposefully misleading. What is going on?

Peter said...


There is no conspiracy. Repeat after me, There is no...


gunther gatherer said...


It's getting to the point where you can just name your blog "do the opposite of whatever the doc says", and you don't have to write any more to give readers sound health advice.

And what's scary is these doctors are extremely intelligent people, so conspiracy theories aside, this logically can't be an accident.

It's simply a war on humans.

Peter said...


Ultimately yes. Most of the guys were young and the driver was not in to obvious COPD at this time. The FFAs arrive in minutes, the lung failure takes years.


I think he was talking about the sympathetic nervous system, moderate doses stimulate, high doses paralyse it. Once the sympathetic system is paralysed the parasympathetic system gets a look in and it dilates blood vessels. He was talking about thromoangiitis obliterans. The "benefits" come in at about 40/day. His advice is to correct diet, not to smoke! But reduction without cessation might well make things worse...

Greentree and Valda,

Taubes suggest the weight gain normally occurs in the first month after quitting and is utterly independent of caloric intake. People snack more because they no longer have easy access to their adipose tissue. Gotta get energy from somewhere, even if it's just for basal metabolism.


I would certainly expect the effects of smoking to be affected by the level of omega 6 PUFA throughout the body, and I would also expect chronic hyperinsulinaemia and hyperglycaemia to affect whether a given individual developed cancer. All of these will have some bearing of the Kitavan, French and Japanese.

If it's true that nicotine mimics a low insulin state there might be some long term benefit.. That's very speculative and it's not a hook that attracts me, so dunno really.


The obvious answer to this is to develop a nicotine analogue which does not cross the blood brain barrier, then you might look at the effects on adipose tissue without CNS involvement. You made me think of niacin, a lipolysis inhibitor. It doesn't make people fat (as far as I know), but then what plasma level is needed to inhibit lypolysis and does oral niacin hit this level for any period of time? Plus there is the complication of niacin hitting the beta hydroxy butyrate receptor, so mimicking ketosis.....


Bris said...

Nicotine is also a moderately effective anti-psychotic and antidepressant.

Cupcakes said...

Hi Peter,

That Schizophrenics are four times more likely to smoke got me thinking about Nicotine. Gluten elimination does them wonders, and so seemingly does smoking. By the great reasoning that if it's good for Schizophrenics it's good for healthy people I think I'm going to bite the bullet and try out a patch or something.

Been enjoying your blog for a while now... and welcome to Scotland!

Bris said...


Nicotine mimics ketosis. A lack of vitamin B3 (nicotimamide) causes schizophrenia.

Ketosis is extremely effective for treating schizophrenia. So is nicotinamide.

No need to smoke just take some nicotinamide.

Dr. B G said...


You are so bright. I've really enjoyed your posts! (esp the animal ones... I bet Peter would enjoy too) I had no idea that Okinawans were originally from Taiwan (my ancestors are as well, Hakka).

(I used to smoke, hate to admit, and sometimes when I take niacin, I do feel similarly. Anyhow that is my observation.)


Bris said...

Dr BG:

I had a university classmate from Taiwan. She often ate KFC fried chicken it was 'just like traditional Taiwanese food'. Don't tell the food police!

Unknown said...

Just to corroborate, when I was a full time dance student in my 20's we all used to smoke like mad. We would train for 1.5 hour slots and then get a quick break before heading back for more training.

Every break we had was a fag break. It was actually quite difficult to smoke a cigarette whilst totally out of breath in a 5 min time window - but it was like life blood to us. We would laugh about it when we could catch our breath. Dance training is one of the most demanding physical activities you can do. Must have needed those FFAs :)

Dr. B G said...

*haa* Lisa,

Dancing is HARD WORK omg... That is probably why I drop a few lbs after clubbing (which is way more than half-marathons). A lot of anaerobic bursts and sprint efforts - all the while making it look pretty! Dancers ROCK. I can see how a fag break helps... Last summer I took a hiphop class which I'll never do again. A fag break would've been nice :) (or a couple shots of tequila!)


LeenaS said...

Cool post, peter

My mother was a devoted anti-smoking advocate, and none of her kids have ever taken to smoking. Yet in her kin I know but two persons who lived past 80 in the last 4 generations. Both were ladies, both lived rather sedentary lives (long story) - and both were smokers.

So nice to have you back!

Natalia said...

Hi, Peter,
Searching PubMed for "nicotinic cholinergic receptors, Alzheimer disease" gives interesting result - papers dated before the turn of the century show nicotine being protective against AD, but after 2000 - entirely opposite. Magic!

"There is no conspiracy. Repeat after me, There is no..." :-)

About 8 years ago, I've read a big paper that described all beneficial properties of nicotine. I saved the link and guess what? - link doesn't work anymore. Magic!

Thank you for such interesting blog and please excuse my English.

Unknown said...

There has to be a better way than a cigarette, right? I actually work with a program called Chef's Diet, and we encourage a healthy dietary plan. We prepare fresh foods made daily that are delivered to your door. We also cater to those that need special needs, such as low sugar and gluten free. If anyone is interested, visit http://www.mychefsdiet.com

Anonymous said...

"It's getting to the point where you can just name your blog "do the opposite of whatever the doc says", and you don't have to write any more to give readers sound health advice."

Hmmm, you could call it The Hypocritic Oath like I just did. There's not much there yet, I keep getting bogged down in reading other folks' much more interesting stuff, but please feel free to read this


and see what you can add!

My last move but one, we employed Mr T and a skinny old Irish guy. I don't know what sort of diet Mr T ate but when he evacuated his bowels we had to evacuate the house for half an hour. He was immensely strong - but the tiny wizened Irish guy was even stronger, like one of those ants who can carry several times their own bodyweight. He was almost entirely fuelled on nicotine, with the occasional biscuit.

I suffer from various "mental" symptoms, most of which have curiously (or not) resolved by radically dropping carbs and were driven by reactive hypoglycemia and the neuroendocrine dumps generated by the high and ensuing low glucose levels.

I still take a low dose of venlafaxine and trim the results with nicotine and caffeine. When I was on an SSRI my nicotine and caffeine consumption went through the roof, and increased with the dose - there's some evidence that while these drugs increase serotonin they reduce dopamine, and nicotine and caffeine are dopaminergic, which makes sense of my experience.

My physical energy levels and also my mood swings are much more even when I fuel myself principally on fats/ketones: there's a lot of interconnection between not only glucose levels but fat intake, especially Omega 3s, with various "mental" illnesses. Not only schizophrenics but depressives tend to be heavy smokers, and ADD and coffee go together well.

I tried one of these


but it lacks the lung-ripping effect of a rollup, and since doctors have undoubtedly shortened my life as well as ruined its quality I'm not too fussed about shortening it still further. I know a few people who have recommended these as a way of giving up smoking but it's a way of getting the nicotine without the carcinogenic sides and controlling the dopaminergic input dose should you require it.

LeonRover said...

I too read the stuff in Taubes on the fat mobilising effects of nicotine, and read the material in the cited studies.
I had reached a "stop" in my fat loss program - then 6 kgs - and wished to lose another 5 kgs. I decided to use 15 mg Patches as I had given up an 80 per day cigarette habit on completion of my undergraduate "finals". In addition I wanted to have a steady blood nicotine level rather than the spikes of inhalation. The results of patched nicotine included a negation of the "blahs" due to the dripfeed of dopamine, as well as continued fat loss to my desired weight.

Natalia, I have read there is much research being conducted to construct a nicotine mimic, which in due course will produce "blockbuster" profits for the purses of Big Pharma thro' being prescribed for Parkinson's Alzheimer's and other syndromes.
Nicotine Patches are an OTC product made by Small Pharma, and only capable of "ordinary" profits!
No wonder references to the benefits of nicotine are difficult to find.

Peter said...

My big problem with nicotine (sympathetic nervous system stimulation excepted) is the worry about what happens when you take the patch off.

The weight gain on quitting smoking is completely independent of calorie intake... Will the weight come back? I'm all ears for someone's results on this one!


LeonRover said...

Hi Peter,
Should explain that my cigarette cessation was 45 years ago, and the Patches have been used recently.

I'm on a 20-25 gm/day CHO keto-ish eating, but with double your protein.

For the present, I'm sticking (sic) with the Patch, rather than 350 ml of white wine! BTW over here in Dublin I can get lamb & beef kidneys, but the new slaughtering regs as result of "Mad Beef Disease" means that sweetbreads are not available in my local butcher. Quelle domage!


Peter said...

Hi Leon,

Back when I liver in Norfolk about 4 years ago Tesco, having destroyed the high street completely, did sell offal including hearts. On the move to Berkshire I've never seen this in any supermarket but that could just have reflected the location rather than change with time. Liver and kidneys are easy to get here in Scotland and at least one butcher will order me a whole ox heart on request. Most other offal is gone with BSE and has been for years... Mind you lung is still in Haggis and stomach too, so it must be legally available. You can still get cooked intestine on the market in Yarmouth, so again I think it is demand led (or not).


greentree said...

I stopped smoking 18 months ago. Cannot lose a single ounce of weight since. I am perimenopausal and hypothyroid. Can anyone help me?

Peter said...

Hi Greentree,

I'm not sure anyone can say much beyond the basic principles of weight control and make sure your thyroid is sorted. Most people would agree that you are in a difficult position and I would emphasise VERY strongly that normoglycaemia and normal insulin levels are core to good health. Being slim is not. On the SAD a BMI of around 26 seems best with this as fat, not excess muscle. I would suspect that on a LC diet bodyweight should become unimportant (I hope so as I am too thin by the above criteria). After that it becomes personal preference and practicality.

I find the arguments for very occasional maximal exercise to exhaustion quite convincing to build muscle. Muscle soaks up glucose, allowing lower insulin levels to allow more lypolysis. And the argument that low grade fully aerobic exercise (brisk walking) stimulates fat metabolism is believable too.

Chris at


and Mark at


have more to say on this.


Melodie said...

Wow! Interesting! It's hard to 'promote' smoking in anyway due to the other carcinogenic ingredients they put in cigarettes (lung cancer anyone?), but it does seem logical to note the effects of nicotine on fat mobilization. I've noticed (I don't smoke though), that 'native' cigarettes, or homemade ones don't contain all the other ingredients such as rat poison etc. They are predominantly nicotine and w/e else is in them. Hmmm...interesting.

I think people should look at what types of cancer people are getting. Is pancreatic cancer really related to smoking? Is it? I believe that mouth, throat, and lung cancer would be related to smoking, but pancreatic, colin, ovarian cancer are related to glucose overdose.

Anyways, I love your blog! Glad you have found a woe that suits you and has been sustainable for 10+ years!

Peter said...

Hi Melodie,

There is information comming out that suggest that nicotine per se may be an issue with CVD. This would be through inappropriate lipolysis in the presence of large amounts of dietary carbohydrate. Whether this applies under low carbohydrate conditions is a big unknown and is probably completely separate to any carcinogenic effects...


Edward Edmonds said...





CYP1A2 seems involved. Coffee, tea, and smoking all seem to be related.

Edward Edmonds said...





CYP1A2 seems involved. Lots of interesting searches.