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Alcohol and smoking are a very dangerous combination
Smoking tobacco, among many other health effects, causes chemical changes, oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain. Excessive alcohol consumption can have similar effects. The combination of tobacco and alcohol even appears to cause neural damage in certain brain regions.
Scientists at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) found in their current study that sharing tobacco and alcohol can cause neuronal damage in certain regions of the brain. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "ACS Chemical Neuroscience".
Combined effects of alcohol and smoking have been studied
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, many people who smoke tobacco also drink excessive alcohol and vice versa. The investigation of the combined effects of the two substances on the central nervous system can therefore provide valuable insights. However, most previous studies have isolated the effects of smoking or alcohol consumption. For this reason, in their current study on rats, the scientists examined how the combination of alcohol and smoking affects the different regions of the brain.
Experimental animals were exposed to alcohol and tobacco twice a day
The experts gave the test animals alcohol twice daily for 28 days, exposed them to tobacco smoke, or a combination of both substances. The brains of the rats were then compared to the brains of control animals which did not receive such substances. The scientists found that the combined alcohol and smoke treatment increased the concentration of reactive oxygen species in the hippocampus compared to the animals from the control group or rats that were only exposed to one substance.
What effects on the brain could be determined
In all areas of the brain examined, the alcohol-smoking combination increased the concentration of specific pro-inflammatory cytokines more than the contact with each of the substances alone. In an area of the brain called the striatum and in the frontal cortex, rats exposed to tobacco and smoke showed lower levels of a growth factor that helps existing neurons survive and stimulates new neuron growth. The results of the study suggest that alcoholics who also smoke have an additional risk of nerve damage, the scientists explain. (as)