April is Natural Parkinson’s Disease Month
April is National Parkinson’s Month. This article will be dedicated to raising awareness about this neurodegenerative disease along with different dietary and nutritional factors that could possibly help protect against the development, or slow down the progression, of Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) can be defined as a chronic, progressive neurological disease that is linked to a decreased production of dopamine (a compound that acts as a neurotransmitter and also precursor to other hormones within the body) in the substantia nigra (a layer of grey matter in the midbrain). It can be marked by tremors of resting muscles, rigidity, slowness of movement, impaired balance, partial paralysis of the face and a shuffling gait.
According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, nearly one million people in the United States have PD, with more than 50,000 new diagnoses made annually. Most people diagnosed with PD are over 45 years of age, with more men developing the disease than women. And yet, while the exact cause of PD remains unknown scientists have identified a number of different possible genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors which could contribute to the development and progression of the disease. Besides age, gender and genetics, other lifestyle factors which include areas of residence, injuries to the head, occupations and exposure to various pesticides, metals, PCB’s and certain solvents in the environment, our food and water may be contributing factors to PD. Although there is no concrete evidence showing any single environmental or lifestyle factor alone could directly cause PD, it’s likely that it may be a number of factors accumulating which inevitably lead to the development of this disease. Therefore it may be wise to avoid exposure to such factors listed above as much as possible.
Despite not knowing what exactly causes Parkinson’s disease science has unveiled some observations between certain nutrients found in food which could help to either lower the risks of developing or slow the progression of this degenerative disease. For example, in 2013, a study published in the Annals of Neurology (an official journal of the American Neurological Association and the Child Neurology Society) revealed a strong connection between the consumption of nightshade vegetables (members of the solanaceae family), especially green, yellow and red peppers, and a significantly lower number of cases of Parkinson’s disease among those regularly consuming these vegetables. Results from this population-based study have led researchers to further speculate that it may be the small amount of nicotine present in these vegetables which may serve as a protective mechanism against the development of Parkinson’s. However, this is still yet to be confirmed.
Another key observation made in those afflicted with PD is the dysfunction of the mitochondria in the neurons that produce dopamine. There are a number of studies on particular nutrients that may help to promote healthier mitochondrial function in those with PD. Nutrients such as Creatine, CoQ10, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, NADH, PQQ, Melatonin and many more, have revealed a variety of mixed results ranging from improvements in sleep, mood, balance, coordination, strength and endurance to little or no observed effects on the overall Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale scores.
The following articles on Parkinson’s disease will explain with more detail how these nutrients and others (such as Mucuna and L-dopa) could possibly help those afflicted with Parkinson’s Disease.
Annals of Neurology May 9, 2013 (published online) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ana.23884/full