Lifestyle Works

Peppers & Parkinson’s

While we don’t really know what causes Parkinson’s, we do know that people with a smoking history only appear to have about half the risk. Of course, “smoking is hugely damaging to health; any benefit derived from a reduction in risk of Parkinson’s disease is outweighed by the increased risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease,” as well as lung disease, but this shouldn’t stop us from “evaluating tobacco components for possible neuro-protective effects.”

Nicotine may fit the bill. If nicotine is the agent responsible for the neuro-protective effects, is there any way to get the benefit without the risks?

After all, where does nicotine come from? The tobacco plant. Do any other plants have nicotine? Well, tobacco is a nightshade plant, so it’s in the same family as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers. Guess what? They all contain nicotine as well!

That’s why you can’t tell if someone’s a smoker just by looking for the presence of nicotine in their toenail clippings, because non-smokers grow out some nicotine into their nails. Nicotine is in our daily diet—but how much? The amount we average in our diet is hundreds of times less than we get from a single cigarette. So, though we’ve known for more than 15 years that there’s nicotine in ketchup, it was dismissed as insignificant. We then learned that even just one or two puffs of a cigarette could saturate half of our brain’s nicotine receptors, so it doesn’t take much. Then, we discovered that just exposure to second-hand smoke may lower the risk of Parkinson’s, and there’s not much nicotine in that, about three micrograms working in a smoky restaurant, but that’s on the same order as what one might get eating the food at a non-smoking restaurant. So, the contribution of dietary nicotine intake from simply eating some healthy vegetables may be significant.

Looking at nightshade consumption, researchers found that different nightshades have different amounts of nicotine; eggplant, potatoes and tomatoes, but the most in red peppers. They found that more peppers meant more protection. And, as we might expect, the effects of eating nicotine-containing foods were mainly evident in nonsmokers, as the nicotine from smoke would presumably blot out any dietary effect.

Researchers conclude that their findings will need to be reproduced to help establish cause and effect before considering dietary interventions to prevent Parkinson’s disease, but when the dietary intervention is to eat more delicious, healthy dishes like stuffed peppers with tomato sauce, I don’t see the reason we have to wait.

—Michael Greger MD, FACLM, Dec. 4, 2018


Red Peppers

Vitamin C is another cancer-protective nutrient. It’s main effect is also likely due to its role as an antioxidant, similar to vitamin A, thus decreasing exposure to toxic ‘free-radicals.’

Vitamin C also tends to prevent the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines from nitrites in the diet.

The recommended dietary intake for vitamin C as published by the National Academy of Sciences is 60mg per day. Since vitamin C is abundantly supplied in our foods, obtaining this level of intake is not difficult. Some good sources of this important vitamin are as follows, and Red peppers are top of the list.

Red pepper (raw)  1 med. - 141mg                 Raspberries - 1 cup - 31mg
Orange Juice, fresh 1 cup - 124mg                 Blackberries - 1 cup - 30mg
Brussels sprouts, boiled - 1 cup - 98mg          Sweet potato, baked - 1 med - 28mg
Pink/red  grapefruit - 1 each - 94mg               Kale, boiled - half cup - 27mg
Kiwifruit - 1 each - 75mg                                Tomato - 1 each - 24mg
Orange - 1 med. - 70mg                                 Cabbage, raw - 1 cup - 23mg
Green Pepper (raw) - 1 med - 66 mg              Baked potato - 1 med - 16mg
Broccoli, pieces - half cup - 41mg                  Banana    - 1 med - 10mg

Dr Nedley’s recommended daily allowance for vitamin C is 250mg.

– Dr Neil Nedley, Proof Positive, p.36,37                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Recipe Tips

Add red peppers freely to your daily diet and reap the benefits of this nutritious and valuable food.

Wash fruit, cut in half and clean out interior, including seeds. Cut  into strips or small cubes, usually about 10mm, but can be cut to personal choice.

Use cubes in salads, or strips as decoration on top of salads, or strips with a dip.
Use cubes on pizzas.  
Use cubes or strips in stir fries.
Use cubes or strips in casseroles.
Use strips when making wraps.
Use narrow strips in sushi.
Use blended in dressings, sauces and vegan cheeses.

Cut whole pepper in half by length, or across. Clean out and stuff with such as cooked rice, millet, buckwheat, quinoa or mashed tofu as a base. Saute onion, garlic and ginger root and add soy sauce, herbs or seasoning of your choice. Other vegetables may be added, such as carrots, corn, peas, spinach, mushrooms, etc.
Bake for 30-45 min at 180°C.