Cigarette smoke directly damages leg muscles, study finds

Smoking cigarettes DOES make you weaker: It directly damages muscles by limiting the flow of oxygen and nutrients through the body, study finds

  • The study found that cigarette smoke reduced the number of blood vessels in leg muscles
  • Results also showed that smoke limited the amount of oxygen and nutrients the vessels can receive
  • Researchers say this is a risk factor for many chronic diseases including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and diabetes
  • The team was not able to identify which chemical in cigarette smoke was responsible for the damage

Smoking cigarettes damages the muscles in your body, a new study has found.

The smoke directly reduces the number of blood vessels in leg muscles and limits the amount of oxygen and nutrients they can receive.

Previous studies have shown that smoking makes muscles weaker because lungs become inflamed by cigarette use, restricting your ability to exercise and perform activities.

However, this study, conducted by researchers from California, Brazil and Japan, is the first to show the direct impact of smoking on the muscles. 

Smoking cigarettes damages leg muscles in your body by reducing the number of blood vessels, a new study has found

Past research has shown that cigarette smoke narrows your body’s arteries, reducing both the flow of blood to your heart and your lung capacity – making you work harder during physical activity.

This limits your ability to perform certain exercises and ability to grow your muscles.

However, researchers have been now able to show how the effect is far greater than we once thought.

For the study, the team exposed mice to smoke from tobacco cigarettes for eight weeks, either by inhalation or by injecting mice with a solution bubbled with smoke. 

In the study, the team found a 34 percent decrease in the capillary-to-muscle fiber ratio of calf muscles in mice exposed to smoke.

Capillaries are the smallest blood vessels in the body. A high capillary-to-fiber ratio allows blood to more fully permeate muscle tissue. 

However, the study shows that because blood vessels have been diminished, the rate of blood flow to muscles is reduced – depriving them of oxygen and nutrients.

And when muscles are deprived of these two substances to use for energy, they are weakened and unable to perform a great amount of physical activity.

This a a risk factor for many long-term diseases including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and diabetes.

Fatigue resistance also diminished by up to 43 percent in these mice, meaning muscles more quickly feel weak, painful and tired. 

Although the researchers found muscle damage in the legs to be the most pronounced, they could not identify exactly which chemical in cigarette smoke was responsible.

They point out that cigarettes contain approximately 4,000 chemicals, many of which are harmful carcinogens.

‘It is vitally important that we show people that the use of tobacco cigarettes has harmful consequences throughout the body, including large muscle groups needed for daily living,’ said Ellen Breen, an associate research scientist of the University of California, San Diego.

‘[We need to] develop strategies to stop the damage triggered by the detrimental components of cigarette smoke.’ 

The research is particularly vital on the heels of a recent study that found leg exercises boost the production of grey matter cells in the brain. 

The study, conducted at Milan University found that weight-bearing exercise boosts the production of healthy neural cells, essential for the brain and nervous system.

Cutting back on exercise makes it difficult for the body to produce new nerve cells, which are some of the very building blocks that allow us to handle stress and adapt to challenge in our lives. 

Because legs contain the body’s largest muscles, they are of particular relevance for muscular fitness and more important than other for stimulating brain activity.  

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