Nicotine and Blood Sugar

I’ve been wanting to write about the relationship between cigarettes and blood sugar for some time, but it’s challenging because I’m busy with work. Also I’m not a scientist and I don’t have a lot of background.

So I’m gonna copy-paste a conversation I’ve been having with with people, invite feedback, and edit it as I go along.

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“Are you aware of the relationship between cigarettes and blood sugar?
let me give you the thug notes.

# NICOTINE => BLOOD SUGAR ++

I can’t remember the precise details, but basically but basically the human meatbag experiences the equivalent of a blood sugar rise with a cigarette. Something about nicotine, glucose and receptors.

That’s why cigarettes are appetite suppressants and keep you skinny, and that’s also why people who quit smoking suddenly want to eat so much more, especially sugar. Cigarettes fool your body into thinking you have more blood sugar than you actually do.

So.

# SMOKERS OFTEN HAVE TERRIBLE DIETS

The worst smokers are typically the people with the worst diets.
They don’t eat breakfast. maybe they’re stressed and anxious and nauseous.
They wake up in the morning, coffee and cigarette. reduces nausea. induces shitting. it’s all “controlled”.

But they don’t have a hearty / heavy breakfast.
So now their blood sugar level is volatile throughout the day, And whenever it goes really low, the brain (prefrontal cortex?) starts shutting down. You just feel like you can’t function, like you’re not there. It’s a bit like sleep deprivation, it’s a bit like ‘feeling faint’.

Fastest way to address this? Smoke a cigarette. And then you kind of get some power back.

For people with bad blood sugar levels, it’s an intense problem. The symptoms are startlingly similar to altitude sickness.

(Which is why it’s sort of poetic that smokers joke “i’m going out for some oxygen”. to their body, it’s the same thing.)

Now.

Tobacco companies don’t talk about this.
They talk about cancer.
Lung disease.
Which every smoker knows they’re probably going to get.
But in the short run they’re suffering from chronic, volatile blood sugar.
Cancer is 10, 20 years away.
You have altitude sickness, what do you do?
You smoke.

# FEEL GUILTY => SMOKE MORE

And right after you smoke, how do you feel? guilty.
or maybe angry.
What happens when you’re guilty and/or angry?
Limbic system lights up. [citation needed]

///// CORRECTION by Junhong Yu:

“limbic system does not ‘light up’ . The ‘lighting up’ simply reflects statistical maps in group studies, but not actual neurobiological mechanisms

and there are inhibitory connections between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex that make affect your decision making when you are feeling stressed or anxious.

the other thing to consider is that smoking messes up your dominergic system (i.e. reward system), you are less able weigh risks properly, you are less able delay present gratification for bigger future rewards”

/////

What happens when those neurons fire?
They use up resources.
What is the resource?
Glucose.
What happens when the glucose levels are depleted?
Low blood sugar.
Altitude sickness.
What do you do?
Smoke again.

The entire system is designed to screw you over and over again.
(it’s eerily similar for overeating– I haven’t done as much reading about that, but it seems to be fundamentally about insulin levels, tolerance, etc)

Also. Say you have low blood sugar.
You can’t function.
You can’t do your work.
You can’t focus.

What happens?
You miss deadlines.
Never study.
What happens?
You get stressed. (cortisol bla bla… haven’t done enough reading here)
No appetite. (some people stress-eat… I haven’t read up about the distinction)
Can’t eat.
Low blood sugar.

But wait, there’s more!

# LOW BLOOD SUGAR => BAD SLEEP

What happens when you have chronic low blood sugar throughout the day?
Your brain worries that it won’t have enough fuel, so it doesn’t let you sleep.
It’s literally afraid you’ll go into a coma.

But you have no appetite.
You can’t eat.

What do you do? Smoke some more.

Quality of sleep? Horrible.

Wake up in the morning? Tired, stressed.

No appetite. No energy. Brain needs sugar to function.

Smoke some more.

===

1:

“What happens when you’re guilty and/or angry?
Limbic system lights up. [citation needed]
What happens when those neurons fire?”

limbic system does not ‘light up’ . The ‘lighting up’ simply reflects statistical maps in group studies, but not actual neurobiological mechanisms

and there are inhibitory connections between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex that make affect your decision making when you are feeling stressed or anxious.

the other thing to consider is that smoking messes up your dominergic system (i.e. reward system), you are less able weigh risks properly, you are less able delay present gratification for bigger future rewards

2:

“I think he is linking this too much to mood and stress, which can be subjective.

Here’s the more direct causative factor and relationship between smoking and blood glucose levels:

Nicotine causes the release of adrenaline (one of the many other hormones it triggers). Adrenaline prepares the body for fight or flight, so heart rate and blood pressure goes up and the body converts it’s stored glucose (stored as inactive glycogen mainly in the liver) back into glucose, that is then dumped into the blood stream.

This glucose spike is bad in a few ways:

1. The smoker is not actually using it up, causing it to remain in the blood stream for extended time. This is linked to development of insulin resistance and eventually diabetes type 2.

2. Appetite is suppressed as the high blood glucose level triggers a feedback loop that normally triggers when food digestion dumps sugar into the blood stream.

3. If the smoker does not eat because appetite is poor, the body actually goes into starvation mode as the stored glucose are depleted and no food is coming in. This causes heavy eating later and even if this does not happen, the body starts to develop the “feast and famine” response, which causes it to excessively store fat (which are burnt after glucose is depleted) in times when food are available. i.e, some smokers may look skinny, but they may have high lipid/fat ratios and other related issues.

4. The constant heart rate stimulation as well as the accompanied blood pressure spikes also creates a problem when combined with a glucose spike. When there’s more glucose in the blood, it changes the osmotic gradient and fluid actually moves into the blood stream to dilute it from surrounding tissues. Coupled this sudden blood volume increase with the pounding heart and the already artificially elevated blood pressure, and one can imagine how much strain this puts on the heart walls and blood vessels. Long term, this increases the chance of heart diseases and strokes from burst vessels.

And all these are just the tip of the ice burg and only from just the adrenaline + glucose route. We are not even looking at the rest of nicotine’s effects and the tar and other crap.”

 

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