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Middle-aged People Have Up to 20-Year Window to Reduce PD Risk, Oxford Health Policy Report Says

Oxford Health Policy Forum

In calling for a public health campaign to promote a brain-healthy lifestyle, an Oxford Health Policy Forum report says people in middle age have a 10- to 20-year window of opportunity to potentially reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s (PD), or to delay progression.

“The process of neurodegeneration begins many years before symptoms appear, and it may take years for an at-risk individual to progress through the presymptomatic and prodromal disease phases until a clinical diagnosis can be made,” the report’s executive summary said.

Called “Time Matters: A Call to Prioritize Brain Health,” the report condenses published evidence and the consensus findings of a group of international multidisciplinary experts. It’s meant to encourage individuals to prioritize their own brain health, and to challenge policymakers, scientists, medical professionals, and organizations that fund research and programs to collaborate in planning for healthcare structures.

Focusing on Parkinson’s as well as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the report summarizes key risk factors for both disorders, and discusses how lifestyle changes can improve brain health. It also explores challenges to the introduction of population screening-type programs — successful in some areas of medicine, including cancer — in neurodegenerative diseases, noting the potential for false positive test results that can cause undue anxiety.

To prepare for future scientific advances, the publication calls for continuing the search for effective diagnostic tools, biomarkers, therapeutic targets and treatments. In addition, it promotes “big data” as a way to help identify links between brain diseases and causative factors, which could advance drug target identification. The report also concludes that wearable technology could be increasingly useful in tracking disease courses and in personalized healthcare.

Because lifestyle changes have been shown to improve both cardiovascular and brain health, the report recommends wide public-health dissemination of the message, “What’s good for your heart is generally good for your brain.” And since healthcare professionals and administrators will continue to play key roles in disease management, they should make sure that individuals are referred to specialists and get follow-up care referrals that includes multidisciplinary services, holistic care, prevention information, and treatment options, the publication said.

The 47-page report also includes a host of research recommendations, including understanding that people’s awareness of their risks for neurodegenerative disease may motivate them to change behaviors. Researchers should also learn how best to support those changes, it said.

“We cannot change our genetic make-up, but we can help reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases ourselves by taking exercise, keeping socially active, eating healthily, reducing alcohol intake, stopping smoking and keeping our brains active,” Alastair Noyce, co-chair of the report’s author group, and a professor at Queen Mary University of London, said in a press release.

As people live longer, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s are becoming more common — and presenting a growing socioeconomic burden. But such diseases are not an inevitable consequence of normal aging, said Gavin Giovannoni, author group chair and also a professor at Queen Mary.

“Planning for the healthcare structures of the future has to start now if we’re to avoid a crisis,” he said.

The report’s 10 primary writers are from the U.K., the U.S., the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Belgium, Switzerland, and Luxembourg. It was funded through educational grants from biotechnology company Biogen and multinational healthcare company F. Hoffmann-La Roche.

The Oxford Health Policy Forum works to develop and support initiatives aimed at improving global public health, particularly in areas of unmet medical needs.

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Empower Yourself by Making Good Choices

exergaming

Medication is more than the regimen of pills we take every day. Exercise, diet, and music are lifestyle choices that are beneficial to people with Parkinson’s disease (PD). We did not choose to have Parkinson’s, but we do have a choice about how we live with and respond to PD.

Making good choices and living well with Parkinson’s is empowering. You are in charge. There can be a day when the couch and ice cream for breakfast are the specials of the day — they just can’t be specials for the entire week.

One frequently asked question is, “What is the best type of exercise?” While research regularly highlights different benefits of different types of exercise, the answer is simple: The best type of exercise for you is one that you love to do and look forward to every day. Try different things. I do a variety of exercises, from coaching Rock Steady Boxing classes to attending ballroom dance lessons with my husband.

Exercising with people who also have PD is an added bonus. Shared diagnoses facilitate camaraderie that becomes an extended family. You show up for class because your brothers and sisters are waiting for you. Everyone may be at different stages in their Parkinson’s journey, but we all share the same hope.

Exercising together provides a support group that meets two or three days a week, rather than once a month. It may be the only support for someone who otherwise may be alone. By doing things together, the unexpected and uncertain Parkinson’s detour can be a little less frightening.

So, where does music factor into the detour? Music can take you in so many different directions, like playing an instrument, singing like a rock star in your car, or dancing. There is evidence that drumming is beneficial, and you don’t even need an instrument — turn your garbage can over and you are ready to go!

Music encourages movement and is fun, especially when dancing. We all know that when we hear the song “YMCA,” all hands are in the air. Dancing is something you can do with someone who is on the Parkinson’s journey beside you or even by yourself. Dance through your house while doing the daily housework like no one is watching!

Little victories happen each day. If you can’t find one, create one by choosing a little extra medicine that has a good beat, makes you sweat, or gives you vitamins. So, go ahead and put on some good music, exercise, and finish with a smoothie made with all those superfoods (yes, even kale). At the end of the day, you can look back and say, “Today, I was in charge, and I won.”

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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Is What You Eat Making You Stink?

balance

If you’ve had Parkinson’s disease for any amount of time, you’ve most likely heard that one of the symptoms is a loss of the sense of smell. You may have experienced it yourself.

I pondered this reality one day and became concerned. I wasn’t bothered so much by being unable to smell skunks or detect a foul odor upon entering recently vacated restrooms. I actually consider those loss-of-smell experiences a blessing.

What concerned me was if I smell stinky to others but can’t smell myself, and therefore can’t remedy the situation.

This concern led me to look into foods that are known to make you stink.

Everyone has heard the little ditty, “Beans, beans, the magical fruit. The more you eat … .” Ah, now you remember. It’s just a fact that you don’t need to be told: Beans give you gas. The resulting emissions can rate from minimal to extreme on the odor scale. 

But what are some other foods that can cause you to produce unbecoming body odor that you may not detect because of your loss of smell due to Parkinson’s?

Garlic and onions are popular BO culprits, but did you know that beets can cause your skin to give off a fishy odor?

Cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and others) can create quite a melody of flatulence, but there are great reasons to eat these veggies. Kristen Smith, of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told Health magazine that these foods “have a lot of fiber and contain plenty of beta-carotene along with vitamins C, E, and K as well as folate. In addition to being good for general health, there’s some evidence they may also help prevent certain types of cancer.”

Did you know that caffeine naturally stimulates your central nervous system, thereby causing the sweat glands to become active? And because coffee is also highly acidic, it dries out your mouth right away. People with Parkinson’s may already struggle with dry mouth issues. Bacteria can grow in a dry mouth, leading to bad breath.

Although lentils are on the really-good-for-you list, they tend to cause a pretty smelly atmosphere. This high-fiber food increases the gut bacteria — something found to be extremely important for people with Parkinson’s — but it can also cause some intensive bloating and gas. 

Some other foods that tend to make you “odorous” are red meat, spicy foods, and soy. 

Our bodies all react differently to foods. What makes one person painfully gassy may have little or no effect on someone else. If you’ve been struggling lately with odor or flatulence, you may want to examine your food choices and see if there is something that is not agreeing with you. 

Also, ask a loved one to tell you if they notice a bad odor emanating from you. If you’ve lost some sense of smell, you might not be aware of it. 

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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Balanced Diet to Maintain Optimal Health in Parkinson’s Patients: A Nutritionist’s View

optimal diet

Parkinson’s disease has typically been classified as a neurodegenerative disease with much of treatment focused on managing symptoms. However, recent connections between the brain and gut microbiome as it is influenced by nutrition, oxidative stress, and the environment has been gaining interest.

In a 2015 article from the World Journal of Gastroenterology, the authors said: “A better understanding of the brain-gut-microbiota axis interactions should bring a new insight in the pathophysiology of [Parkinson’s and] permit an earlier diagnosis with a focus on peripheral biomarkers within the ENS [enteric nervous system]. … Dietary or pharmacological interventions should be aimed at modifying the gut microbiota composition and enhancing the intestinal epithelial barrier integrity in [Parkinson’s] patients or subjects at higher risk for the disease.”

The vast population of microorganisms, called the microbiota, live mainly within the gastrointestinal tract and vary greatly. It is widely accepted that highly diverse and stable microbiota promote overall human health.

When this balance is disrupted, changes can occur on several levels across many body systems. Excessive stimulation of the innate immune system resulting from gut dysbiosis (bacteria imbalance) and/or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and increased intestinal permeability may induce systemic inflammation; investigating and understanding this connection may lead to new therapeutic possibilities in Parkinson’s.

Findings show that gastrointestinal dysfunction, especially constipation, is associated with a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s and may precede motor symptoms by more than a decade.

This insight into the alleged root cause of Parkinson’s is important and can offer opportunities for new preventive pathways as well as provide creative solutions for treatment, potentially inhibiting the progression of the disease.

Important interventions are probiotics, specifically Lactobacilli, Enterococci, Bifidobacteria, and prebiotics, which are non-digestible oligosaccharides (carbohydrates) that selectively stimulate the growth and activity of bacteria in the gut, producing metabolites.

Probiotics can be ingested either through supplementation or through the consumption of fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and miso; this strategy directly introduces beneficial bacteria into the gut microbiome.

When prebiotics are metabolized by the bacteria, they produce a byproduct of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) essential to gut integrity and immunity. One of these SCFAs is butyrate.

A 2016 article reported, “Butyrate has also been shown to interact with the ENS and to increase colonic contractility. In critically ill subjects, lower concentrations of butyrate are associated with dysmotility. Taken together, these data are compatible with the assumption that reduced concentrations of butyrate in the feces of [Parkinson’s] patients might exert relevant effects on the ENS and might contribute to gastrointestinal dysmotility, a frequent non-motor symptom in [Parkinson’s].”

Oxidative stress and inflammation have also been at the center of many proposed mechanisms underlying cell death in Parkinson’s, and therefore, much of the focus of nutritional interventions has been on antioxidants. Recently, however, anti-inflammatory compounds such as curcumin (turmeric) have been introduced as an option for regulating the gut-brain axis as well.

So when it comes to diet, here are some of my suggestions:

  • Include foods that have a high nutritional profile complete with probiotics and essential micronutrients such as folate, B vitamins, and flavonoids. These are associated with lower Parkinson’s risk as well as a decrease in functional decline and aging.
  • When thinking about the type of diet to reference, the Mediterranean diet is emerging as a potential neuroprotective alternative for Parkinson’s. This diet includes fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, non-fried fish, olive oil. coconut oil, wine, fresh herbs, and spices.
  • Foods that have been statistically significant in increasing the progression of the disease and should be avoided are canned fruits and vegetables, soda, fried foods, beef, and ice cream, cheese, and those rich in iron.
  • Supplementing with fish oil and CoQ10 has been recommended due to their anti-inflammatory and mitochondria/cellular protective properties respectively. Supplementation should always be monitored by a medical professional.

Research on microbiome-directed therapy is still being conducted, yet provides compelling arguments that these therapies may have a significant influence on the pathological progression of Parkinson’s. The combination of dietary supplementation and a low inflammatory diet may in fact prove to be a core factor in how we approach treatment in the future.

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Alana Kessler, MS RD

Alana Kessler, MS, RD, CDN, E-RYT, is a registered dietitian, nutritionist, weight management expert, and an accredited member of the CDR (Commission on Dietetic Registration) and the American Dietetic Association. She is also a yoga and meditation teacher, Ayurveda specialist, and the founder of the New York City-based fully integrated mind, body, and spirit urban sanctuary, BE WELL. Alana’s BE WELL ARC System and Method Mapping technique is a holistic multidisciplinary approach to health and wellness that blends Eastern and clinical Western diet and lifestyle support to effect long-lasting behavior change.

A graduate of NYU with a BA and MS in clinical nutrition, Alana is dedicated to helping others learn how to nourish themselves, create balance, and understand their true nature through nutrition, yoga, and inner wellness. She leads Yin Yoga workshops and trainings as well as wellness retreats at international locations. Her health, fitness, and lifestyle expertise has been featured in Aaptiv.com, Droz.com, EatThis.com, RD.com, Redbook, WomensHealthmag.com, and Vogue. For more information, visit her website at bewellbyak.com.

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‘Bananas and Beans, not Burgers’: High-Protein Meals and Levodopa

protein

No one told me that breakfast bacon, ham, or sausage would make me feel awful!

I had seen my off-periods worsen after a heavy meat meal, but I shrugged it off as “just a bad off-period.” Now, after being on levodopa for five years, I am positive that animal protein meals are a serious issue. Overlapping a high meat meal with levodopa can result in not just an off-period, but also one that lasts much of the day.

“Bananas and beans, not burgers” is the mantra to remind me that diet is very important in the development of a rehab plan for folks with PD. I am not a nutritionist. I am writing from the perspective of a PD patient warrior and rehab clinician.

Research suggests that changes to your diet could help alleviate some symptoms of your PD. The American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) notes that levodopa crosses the wall of the small intestine via molecules in the intestinal wall that transport amino acids. When dietary protein (beef, chicken, pork, fish, eggs, nuts, and dairy) is also present in the small intestine, fewer transporters are available for levodopa to use. We may experience the “protein effect” when the medication competes with a high-protein meal.

One of the most compelling statements in a 2014 study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience is that a “growing body of evidence suggests that nutrition may play an important role in PD.”

The study “Irregular gastrointestinal drug absorption in Parkinson’s disease” in the journal Expert Opinion on Drug Metabolism & Toxicology states that levodopa transit time in the small intestine is approximately three hours. Therefore, gastric emptying is a major determining factor for the onset of symptom relief. When PD delays gastric emptying, it has the potential to cause motor fluctuations, known to us as off-periods.

Research also shows that with your microbiome (the microorganisms in your body), a relationship exists between Parkinson’s disease and improved gut health. In “Parkinson’s disease and bacteriophages as its overlooked contributors,” published in the journal Scientific Reports, George Tetz and his colleagues examined the viruses that live in the gut, as well as the role the microbiome may play in Parkinson’s disease. According to Parkinson.org, “this has sparked the idea that we might be able to improve the symptoms if we change the microbiome through diet or other ways. … These bacteria play a role in the processes that produce dopamine and affect the intestine’s ability to absorb.”

Like many aspects of Parkinson’s symptoms, the protein effect is highly variable. Some people do not experience it at all. Others are extremely sensitive to protein’s effect on medication absorption. This diet concern was presented at my local PD support group, and the group’s PD warriors and caregivers agreed almost unanimously with having experienced or witnessed the adverse effects.

It typically becomes more of an issue as PD progresses. The APDA suggests that if someone experiences the protein effect, two potential strategies might help. One is to refrain from eating protein during the day, eating it at night instead, when the medication’s effect is less critical. The second is to distribute protein intake evenly throughout the day so that medication absorption is enhanced during that time.

The solution I have found that works best for me has two parts. First, I space the levodopa dosing so that it occurs between meals to minimize absorption issues. Second, I eat the day’s moderate meat meal at lunch, not dinner or breakfast.

Reducing meat in your diet may be beneficial not just to levapoda absorption. An amazing study on diet and overall health by Thomas Campbell and T. Colin Campbell, called “The China Study,” clearly showed that decreasing meat intake is a good change for all of us. Bananas and beans, not burgers.

What diet changes have you found to be helpful? Share in the comments below.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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My Struggles Worsen Despite Natural Treatment Experimentation

struggles

My body does not feel right. What am I going to do about it?

What has happened to me?

My quality of life was deteriorating due to my neurological issues. Along with poor fine motor skills on my left side and slowness of movement, I was constantly fatigued. This was a fatigue that no amount of quality sleep could ever satisfy. Additionally, I had internal tremors (not visible to the naked eye, but I always felt so weak and shaky). I thought for sure there must be some kind of “natural” solution to help cure what ailed me — one that did not involve prescription drugs.

My initial approach was to go to physical and occupational therapy and to continue my exercise regimen (weights, yoga, cycling, walking). This plan did not seem to slow disease progression or alleviate my symptoms. My depression and lack of motivation (other Parkinson’s disease symptoms) were also hindering me.

I can’t fight this alone, so drugs are an option

In March 2016, I finally agreed to try Azilect (rasagiline), a prescription medication. Two weeks later, my symptoms had not improved and I felt worse (dizzy and nauseous). So, off that medication and on to the next one, ropinirole. This time, it only took a few hours on the medication for me to become extremely sick with vomiting and a pounding headache. I immediately discontinued that medication.

Both my neurologist and primary care physician thought I should focus on treating my depression symptoms with a prescription medication. In August 2016, I tried Viibyrd (vilazodone HCI), an antidepressant. Within a few weeks, I was suffering from intense, gory nightmares every night with no improvement in my symptoms. At this point, I decided my PD symptoms may not be such a bad thing, and I refused to try any more medications.

I can’t fight this alone, but drugs are not an option

In October 2016, I attended a week-long workshop that focused on a plant-based diet. My diet needed a serious overhaul. The time was right to see if changing my eating habits would make a difference in the quality of my life. I was already a vegetarian, but I still loved my dairy products. I also loved sugar, pasta, and bread. These food items are known to potentially cause inflammatory responses in the body. Also, I have read that the neurodegeneration observed in PD is accompanied by inflammatory processes. If I added these two theories together, I believed a change to a gluten-free, no-sugar-added, vegan diet might help my PD symptoms.

A holistic doctor at the plant-based diet workshop I attended suggested I look into the Hinz Protocol for treating my PD. Dr. Marty Hinz developed an amino acid therapy that utilized natural dopamine powder from the Mucuna pruriens (velvet bean) plant in conjunction with other amino acids. I found a neurologist in New York City who endorsed this approach. After I returned home from the workshop, I maintained the strict diet and struggled with the Hinz Protocol. I say “struggle” because I suffered a lot of nausea. The doctor had to repeatedly adjust the dosages for the amino acid capsules and Mucuna pruriens powder to attempt to eliminate nausea and get symptom relief. Also, the cost of this protocol was hundreds of dollars per month and was not covered by insurance. I could handle the cost if my stomach had relief and my PD symptoms improved. However, that was not to be. After six months, I discontinued the Hinz Protocol.

The losses and the adjustments

I was starting to get very good at making adjustments when a PD symptom would impair me in some way. As an example, I find it difficult to put my coat on with my left sleeve first, so now I put my coat on with my right sleeve first. Or, since I can no longer feel where to put in my pierced earrings, I just make sure I have a mirror handy to see what I am doing. While waiting on a cashier’s line to check out, I make sure I have my money ready so I am not fumbling around in my purse and holding up the line. Wearing satin pajamas makes it easier to move around in bed at night. Being mindful of all my movements is critical so I do not trip, walk into things, or let things fall through my hands.

If my PD does not progress any further, I feel I can deal with the losses it has thrust upon me thus far. However, at times when I wake up in the morning, I think to myself, “What simple task will elude me today?” PD is a disease of loss, the loss of some of the most, mundane things in life many of us (including myself) take for granted. These include:

  • Holding a purse or newspaper firmly under the arm
  • Folding laundry
  • Tying shoes
  • Buttoning a shirt
  • Putting on a seat belt
  • Zipping a jacket
  • Opening a package
  • Cutting a salad

These are mindless tasks everyone does almost every day. Many of us with PD can no longer perform these daily rituals without assistance. If PD has not totally disabled us, some of us may still complete the task unassisted, but it requires intense concentration and focus on our part. It is almost as if we have reverted to being a child again.

Still struggling

It is now mid-2017. I continue to struggle with my worsening PD symptoms, and I am still not on any prescription medications.

All the “snake oil” solutions online make it even more difficult to find relief from my symptoms. On more than one of my PD-related blog posts, some unscrupulous individuals have responded with comments about the great herbal or vitamin supplement that has “cured” their PD. There are so many scammers out there, people and companies that prey on those who are so desperate for relief. I think I can speak for many of us with PD when I say we want to believe there is one thing that can help our symptoms or cure our disease, however, it is so difficult to separate what works and what doesn’t work.

Although I continue to exercise, meditate, and maintain my vegan diet, I fully realize I need more help.

Stop the roller coaster — I want to get off!

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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Source: Parkinson's News Today

Eating More Fish Could Help Prevent Toxic Protein Aggregates in Neurological Disorders, Study Shows

fish Parvalbumin alpha-synuclein

A protein abundant in fish, called β-parvalbumin, can prevent alpha-synuclein aggregation, which is a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders, according to a recent study.

This suggests that eating more fish may help prevent toxic events associated with alpha-synuclein aggregation and progression of several neurological diseases.

This finding was reported in the study, “Abundant fish protein inhibits α-synuclein amyloid formation,” published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Fish has long been regarded as a healthy food, linked to improved long-term cognitive health. These benefits are often assumed to come from the high content of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty molecules in the fish. However, scientific evidence to support this hypothesis is controversial, and other molecules could be involved.

To study this, researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden evaluated the potential role of β-parvalbumins in human health. This protein is present at high levels in most fish species and has been recognized as the main trigger of allergic reactions in patients sensitive to fish.

Researchers found that when β-parvalbumin and alpha-synuclein are in contact, they can interact and form new aggregates, preventing alpha-synuclein from reacting with itself and forming the toxic amyloid plaques that are the basis of several neurodegenerative diseases.

“Parvalbumin collects up the ‘Parkinson’s protein’ [alpha-synuclein] and actually prevents it from aggregating, simply by aggregating itself first,” Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, PhD, professor and head of the chemical biology division at Chalmers and lead author of the study, said in a press release.

Herring, cod, carp, and redfish, including sockeye salmon and red snapper, have particularly high levels of parvalbumin. Notably, the levels of parvalbumin can also vary widely throughout the year.

“Fish is normally a lot more nutritious at the end of the summer, because of increased metabolic activity. Levels of parvalbumin are much higher in fish after they have had a lot of sun, so it could be worthwhile increasing consumption during autumn,” said Nathalie Scheers, PhD, assistant professor in the department of biology and biological engineering.

This finding sheds new light on the health benefits of fish consumption, not only adding new knowledge on ways to prevent neurological damage caused by amyloid aggregation, but also possible new therapeutic options for several diseases, including Parkinson’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Huntington’s disease.

“These diseases come with age, and people are living longer and longer. There’s going to be an explosion of these diseases in the future — and the scary part is that we currently have no cures. So we need to follow up on anything that looks promising,” Wittung-Stafshede said.

The team is planning additional studies to further evaluate the potential benefit of β-parvalbumin to treat human diseases. Scheers, together with Ingrid Undeland, a food science professor at Chalmers, is planning a new study to analyze β-parvalbumin from herring and its transport mechanisms in human tissues.

“It will be very interesting to study how parvalbumin distributes within human tissues in more depth. There could be some really exciting results,” Scheers said.

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Source: Parkinson's News Today

Vitamin B12 Supplements May Help Slow Parkinson’s Progression, Study Finds

Vitamin B12 supplement

Low levels of vitamin B12 in patients in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease are linked to faster motor and cognitive decline, suggesting that vitamin supplements may help slow the progression of these symptoms, a study has found.

The study, “Vitamin B12 and homocysteine levels predict different outcomes in early Parkinson’s disease,” was published in the journal Movement Disorders.

Several previous studies have shown that B12 deficiencies are common in Parkinson’s patients. Deficiency of this vitamin promotes development of neurological and motor symptoms associated with the disease, including depression, paranoia, muscular numbness, and weakness.

While most studies have addressed the association of B12 with more advanced Parkinson’s disease, little is known about its contribution in the early stages of the disease before treatment begins.

University of California San Francisco (UCSF) researchers analyzed B12 levels in 680 patients recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s who had not begun treatment. The participants were followed for two years, during which physical and cognitive evaluations were conducted, in addition to B12 assessments. After initial evaluations, the patients were given the option to take a controlled daily multivitamin supplement.

Patients were divided into three groups according to their B12 levels at the beginning of the study. Approximately 13% of the participants had borderline low levels of B12, and 5% had a B12 deficiency. No association was found between low vitamin levels and early motor or cognitive symptoms of Parkinson’s.

The team did find that over time, symptoms in patients with lower B12 levels developed more rapidly than those with higher levels: Patients with lower B12 levels had a significantly reduced ambulatory capacity than patients with higher levels.

“Our findings demonstrate that low B12 levels are associated with greater walking and balance problems, possibly due to the known effect of B12 deficiency on the central and peripheral nervous systems,” Chadwick Christine, MD, UCSF neurologist and lead author of the study, said in a university press release. “Alternatively, low B12 may have a direct effect on the progression of Parkinson’s disease, or it may be a marker of an unknown associated factor, perhaps correlating with another aspect of the disease or nutritional status.”

Subsequent analysis showed improved B12 levels in about 50% of participants, indicating they had chosen to take the multivitamin supplement. Disease progression in this group of patients was found to be much slower, based on the annualized average increase of disability on the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) score  — a measure of Parkinson’s disability. Patients with improved B12 levels had an increase to only 10.11 on the scale, showing less disability, compared with 14.38 in patients who maintained low B12 levels throughout the study.

The team also evaluated the blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is usually elevated in people with low B12 levels. There was a significant association between high levels of homocysteine — thus lower B12 — and faster cognitive decline.

“Our results suggest that the measurement of B12 levels early in Parkinson’s may be beneficial,” Christine said. “If levels are at the low end of normal, supplementation to get the level into the middle or upper end of the normal range may slow development of symptoms.”

Further studies are warranted to shed light on how vitamin B12 might benefit Parkinson’s patients, and to fully address its therapeutic potential on disease progression.

The study was supported by funding from the Michael J. Fox Foundation, and gifts from the Ko and Tsu family and William and Mary Ann S. Margaretten.

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Source: Parkinson's News Today