Strange as it may seem, peppers (and to a lesser degree tomatoes) contain edible nicotine (far less than you would get from a cigarette) that may help protect against Parkinson’s disease. Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle evaluated the diets of 490 Parkinson’s patients and 644 adults who had no neurological disorders. All of the participants completed questionnaires about their lifetime diets and smoking history. Results showed that the more peppers and tomatoes eaten, the lower the risk of Parkinson’s, particularly in adults who reported little or no tobacco use. Findings from earlier studies have shown that cigarette smoking and other uses of tobacco help reduce the risk of Parkinson’s. Still to be explored: the question of whether the nicotine in peppers and tobacco really provide a protective effect or if individuals who develop Parkinson’s are simply less inclined to use tobacco because of brain changes that occur early in the disease process, long before diagnosis. Peppers, tomatoes and tobacco are all members of a flowering plant family called Solanaceae (also informally known as the nightshade family). The study was published online on May 9, 2013 in the Annals of Neurology.
Susan Searles Nielsen et al “Nicotine from Edible Solanaceae and Risk of Parkinson Disease,” Annals of Neurology, May 9, 2013 (DOI:10.1002/ana.23884).