Righty ho, and a welcome back to the supp blog! Once again I’m going to present a nutritional or supplementary addition that can be used to optimize overall performance. This is will again be presented as the somewhat creatively titled; “snack hack”.
So, this one will cause a potential stir I believe. Today’s snack hack is… Nicotine!
Like caffeine, nicotine is a defense mechanism made by plants to keep from being eaten by animals, bugs, or fungus – in fact, caffeine and nicotine are in the same chemical family.
Nicotine is most famously in tobacco, but you’ll also find small amounts of it in members of the nightshade family; tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants, for example. There’s even a tiny bit of nicotine in cauliflower.
It’s important to recognize the distinction between nicotine and tobacco. Nicotine gets the headlines when it comes to tobacco, even though it’s just one of the 5,000+ chemicals in cigarette smoke.
Tobacco is a mixture of compounds, many of which are carcinogenic (cancer promoting), cardiotoxic (making the heart weaker & less efficient at pumping blood), teratogenic (developmental toxicity) or all three.
The acute cognitive enhancing effects of nicotine are robust and well documented. Nicotine has been seen to make individuals more vigilant, improve their short term memory, have more controlled and fluent handwriting (and purely anecdotally increase typing speed), improve reaction time, and suppress appetite.
Technically, nicotine is not significantly addictive, as nicotine administered alone does not produce significant reinforcing properties. However, be mindful that when nicotine reaches your brain, it binds to nicotinic receptors , activating pathways that control attention, memory, motor function, and, importantly in relation to addiction, pleasure.
The scientific literature is very polarized about the impact of nicotine on health. On the one hand, neuroscientists have argued that nicotine is the only substance in existence that reliably enhances working memory and general cognitive performance.
On the other, nicotine can be seen to activate The sympathetic nervous system, (fight or flight response) negatively, thus raising blood pressure and potentially effecting blood sugar responses through cortical being raised.
From a brain health perspective, most of the negative effects of nicotine are on the developing brain. (Your brain is technically still developing until the end of adolescence, around age 25). But on the other hand, nicotine has a protective effect against Parkinson’s disease and has some anti-dementia properties as well. The cost/benefit ratio for nicotine gets favorable the older you are.
Ok, so in conclusion, there are benefits and negatives to nicotine. The negative effects appear though to be related to significant and prolonged use. I myself will use it intermittently maybe one or twice a week maximum. I use Robb Wolf’s recommendation of biting a 2mg gum in half and allowing it to dissolve in my cheek. It without question helps if I need to get focused, for example, for completing a large piece of written work. I don’t find it as great though for socializing as it can make me a bit jittery.
Below is Mr Bulletproof Dave Asprey’s recommendations regarding how best to take nicotine whilst minimizing the negative effects of the delivery system, (from least favourable first) : –
- Chewing tobacco
- Nicotine gum
- Nicotine patches
- Nicotine inhaler
- Nicotine lozengers
- Nicotine mouth spray
Right, well, longer than I’d intended but hopefully some useful info! As ever, if you like please share and leave a message, peace and love blogerites.