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Smoking And Your Teeth

Smoking increases the risk of heart disease and lung cancer, but even before those potentially deadly diseases develop, regular smokers are more likely to begin losing their teeth. A new study from Britain’s University of Birmingham and the German Institute of Human Nutrition determined that men who smoke are 3.6 times more prone to lose their teeth than non-smokers, while among women smokers the risk is 2.5 times higher. The researchers based their conclusions on data gathered from 23,376 participants in a long-term study in Germany. Part of the problem is that smoking is a strong risk factor in promoting tooth decay and gum disease, both of which can lead to tooth loss. The investigators noted that smoking can mask bleeding gums, a key symptom of gum disease, so that a smoker’s gums may look healthier than they actually are. The good news is that quitting smoking can reverse the increased risk of tooth loss, although the researchers wrote that it could take more than 10 years for the risk to equal that of someone who never smoked. 

Secondhand Smoke Promotes Weight Gain

As if secondhand smoke didn't do enough harm - increasing the risk of lung cancer, other respiratory diseases, heart disease and stroke - it can also make you put on fatty tissue and is particularly hard on kids. Researchers from Brigham Young University wanted to know why smokers become insulin resistant, which leads to weight gain, so they exposed mice to secondhand smoke and observed them for changes in their physiology. The mice exposed to the smoke soon began to put on weight, and further research showed that the smoke disrupted normal cell function. The mechanism appears to involve triggering a constituent of fat called ceramide, which alters the metabolism of mitochondria, inhibiting their ability to respond normally to insulin. Once you become insulin resistant, your body needs and produces more insulin to meet metabolic needs, which drives weight gain. The researchers were able to inhibit ceramide in mice with a substance called myriocin and are now trying to find a ceramide inhibitor that is safe and effective for humans.

Smoke Gets In Your Ears?

New research from Britain has tied smoking to hearing loss. If you smoke, your odds of hearing loss are 15 percent higher than that of nonsmokers, the study found. And the researchers came up with an even bigger surprise: if you’re exposed to smoking, your risk of hearing loss is 28 percent higher than non-smokers.

A team from the University of Manchester looked at nearly 165,000 adults in the UK age 40 to 69 who took hearing tests when they joined a national project to improve health. “We found the more packets you smoke per week and the longer you smoke, the greater the risk you will damage your hearing,” said Piers Dawes, Ph.D. of the University of Manchester’s Centre for Human Communication and Deafness. The cause of the connection between hearing loss and smoking isn’t clear, Dr. Dawes said, adding that “we are not sure if toxins in tobacco smoke affect hearing directly, or whether smoking-related cardiovascular disease causes microvascular changes that impact on hearing or both.”

The increased risk among passive smokers -- higher than that for smokers -- could be the result of the study design. Smokers were compared to both complete non-smokers and passive non-smokers, but passive smokers were only compared to complete non-smokers, the researchers said.

Piers Dawes et al, “Cigarette Smoking, Passive Smoking, Alcohol Consumption, and Hearing Loss”, Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology, 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s10162-014-0461-0

What is Your Greatest Exposure to Tobacco Smoke? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed third-hand smoke and it's effects on health: Is Third-Hand Smoke a Threat? Check out the article and let us know what you think is your greatest risk of tobacco smoke exposure.

Big News About Smoking and Heart Attacks

Rates of heart attack (fatal or not) for smokers who quit are about the same as those for people who never smokedFormer smokers may have no more reason to fear heart attacks than people who have never smoked, but the habit is likely to have a lasting effect on heart health. That surprising conclusion comes from a study that used medical imaging to evaluate the coronary arteries of smokers and former smokers. The researchers, from New York-Presbyterian Hospital and the Weill Cornell Medical College, reported that after two years of follow up, the rates of heart attack (fatal or not) for smokers who quit are about the same as those for people who never smoked. This seemed to hold true even when former smokers exhibited as much disease in their coronary arteries as current smokers. However, the study also found that giving up smoking doesn’t change the amount of disease smoking causes in the coronary arteries. The research team reported the findings at the European Society of Cardiology meeting in Amsterdam early this month. The investigators examined 13,372 patients from six countries in Europe, North America, and East Asia. Of those patients, 2,853 were active smokers, 3,174 were former smokers and 7,344 never smoked. The investigators found blockages of 50 percent or more in one or two major coronary arteries among the smokers and former smokers. These individuals also had twice the probability of developing severe blockages in all three major coronary arteries.

James Min et al "Coronary atherosclerosis and major adverse cardiovascular risk among never, past and current smokers undergoing coronary CT angiography: Results from 13,372 patients from the CONFIRM registry" European Society of Cardiology, 2013