A recent study has found a possible link between eating peppers—yellow, red, and green—as well as other nicotine-containing vegetables, such as tomatoes and potatoes, with a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

How prevalent is Parkinson’s?

More than 100,000 Canadians—6.3 million people worldwide—have Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative neurological disease. Many of us are familiar with the disease through the advocacy work of Michael J. Fox, a Canadian actor who was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s in 1991.

What is Parkinson’s?

A degenerative brain disease, Parkinson’s affects movement when nerve cells in the brain that control movement don’t produce enough dopamine. It’s a disease that affects mostly older people, with most cases occurring in those over 50, though early-onset Parkinson’s can affect people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.

What are the symptoms?

Because it is a degenerative disease, symptoms usually progress as the disease progresses. The symptoms can include

  • tremors or shaking
  • slowness in movement
  • muscle stiffness
  • balance problems
  • soft speech
  • changes in cognition
  • sleep disturbances
  • stooped posture
  • depression

What is the pepper connection?

Scientists interested in Parkinson’s disease have found in previous studies that cigarette smoking and other forms of tobacco, a member of the Solanaceae plant family (also known as nightshade), of which peppers are a member, reduced the relative risk of Parkinson’s disease. They weren’t sure, though, whether it was the nicotine or other components in tobacco that provided the protective effect.

What did the current study find?

The current study, published May 9 in the Annals of Neurology, looked at the effect of regularly consuming edible sources of nicotine—peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes—and the related risk of developing Parkinson’s. Researchers found that consumption of vegetables in general had no effect, but eating the nicotine-containing plants was associated with a 19 percent reduction in the risk of Parkinson’s, with peppers being highest.

Want to eat some nicotine?

If you’re looking to increase your edible nicotine intake, try out some of these yummy nicotine-packed recipes: