A new study from The Physiological Society has revealed that smoking cigarettes causes muscle damage. The researchers found that components of cigarette smoke reduce the number of small blood vessels that bring oxygen and nutrients to muscles in the legs.
The findings of the study suggest that smoking damages muscles in the body not only indirectly, but also directly. Prior to this study, smoking was believed to cause muscle weakness indirectly due to the fact that lung capacity becomes more limited, as does an individual’s ability to exercise.
But now, the researchers have demonstrated that cigarette smoke causes direct harm to muscles by reducing the number of blood vessels in leg muscles, which subsequently reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that can be received.
This damage has an impact on both metabolism and activity levels, leading to an increased risk for many chronic diseases including diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
For the investigation, a team led by the University of California, San Diego exposed mice to cigarette smoke for eight weeks. Some of the mice inhaled the smoke, while others were injected with a solution containing tobacco smoke.
Study lead author Ellen Breen is an expert in Respiratory Medicine at UC San Diego.
“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, and develop strategies to stop the damage triggered by the detrimental components of cigarette smoke,” said Breen.
While the study did not identify which of the thousands of chemicals in cigarette smoke are responsible for direct muscle damage, this will be an important focus for further research. The experts also hope to get a better understanding of how these chemicals lead to fewer blood vessels.
The research is published in The Journal of Physiology.