Smoking not only damages health, it is bad for the brain too, according to a Scottish study spanning nearly 60 years.

Professor Lawrence Whalley and his team looked at how the cognitive abilities of 465 people, half of them smokers, changed over their lifetime.

They were first tested in 1947, at 11 years old and examined again between 2000 and 2002 when they were 64. Smokers performed significantly worse in five different cognitive tests than did both former smokers and those who had never smoked.

When social and health behavior was taken into account - factors like education, occupation and alcohol consumption - smoking still appeared to contribute to a drop in cognitive function of just less than 1 percent.

The link between cognitive aging and impaired lung functions could be that smoking subjects the vital organs, including the brain, to oxidative stress, suggests Whalley, of the Department of Mental Health at the University of Aberdeen.

The study he and colleagues at the University of Edinburgh produced appears in New Scientist magazine.

The study stressed the need for stepped up anti-smoking efforts.


A study at Louisiana State University finds that the benefits of regular exercise vary widely, with a small minority of people getting nothing from it.

Researchers put 742 people from 213 families through a 20-week training program that gradually increased their exercise to 50 minutes on a stationary bike three times a week.

The team reports that insulin sensitivity, a marker of risk for heart disease and diabetes, improved in 58 percent of the subjects. But in the

other 42 percent there was no improvement, and, for a few, exercise

appeared to make their situation worse.

Earlier reports said that the team found that maximum oxygen consumption, heart rate, and blood pressure improved by more than 40

percent for some of the subjects

and showed no improvement for a few.

"There is astounding variation in the response to exercise," said Claude Bouchard, one of the authors of the article published in this week's New Scientist.