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Natural Substance Slows Parkinson’s

by Jane Akre

A natural substance found in the blood appears to slow the development of Parkinson’s disease according to a new report.

The antioxidant is called urate.  It is a salt that comes from uric acid and is usually found in blood.  Too much urate can lead to gout and kidney stones.

In this study published in the Archives of Neurology, urate is shown to have protective qualities against the ravages of Parkinson’s tremors and rigidity.  

800 men recently diagnosed with Parksin’s disease were studied over a two-year period. MassGeneral and Harvard researchers found those men with the highest natural levels of urate had the slowest increase in the progression of the disease. They also had the most dopamine-producing neurons and needed to start Parkinson’s treatment later. 

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that helps regulate muscle movement. In Parkinson’s disease brain cells that produce dopamine are destroyed. Symptoms worsen as more dopamine-producing brain cells die.

Urate seems to quiet free radicals that injure the dopamine-producing brain cells.

"These findings, combined with prior knowledge of urate's protective properties in laboratory studies, raise the possibility that urate-elevating strategies could be used to slow the neurodegeneration of Parkinson's disease," study author Michael Schwarzschild, an associate professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, said in a prepared statement.

About one million suffer from the disabling symptoms of Parkinson’s in the U.S. among them actor Michael J. Fox, who has set up a foundation for Parkinson’s Research in November 2006.

Scientists at Harvard School of Public Health had previously correlated a high level of urate with a low risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

They are stopping short of recommending sufferers go out and purchase the supplement inosine that is converted to urate in the body.

Parkinson’s disease (PD) and its uncontrollable tremors have long been suspected to have both a genetic and environmental cause. 

In March, Duke University Medical Center and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine  researchers found those exposed to pesticides and insecticides had a 1.6 times higher risk of developing Parkinson’s.

In another study released in March in the Annals of Neurology among 2,267 men, the inability to identify odors preceded the development of Parkinson’s by at least four years.

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