Parkinson’s disease: Are You at Risk?

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. It plays havoc with motor skills and speech, and that’s just the beginning. Early warning signs include slowed movement, tremors and mild cognitive impairment.

“End-stage Parkinson’s is marked by dementia, near-total immobility, personality and mood disorders and death,” states Parkinson’s expert Jules Goepp, MD.

According to Goepp, the single most important risk factor for the development and progression of Parkinson’s is aging. “Fortunately, great strides have been made in research into the prevention and improvement of parkinsonian symptoms without drugs,” writes Goepp in an excellent article on the disease written for the Life Extension Foundation.

Parkinson’s victims experience a progressive deterioration of a group of neurons called the Basal Ganglia, which is associated with motor control and memory. Deep within the basal ganglia is another structure called the substantia nigra which plays an important role in reward, addiction and movement, and whose cells release the critical neurotransmitter dopamine.

“The incremental but relentless destruction of these dopaminergic neurons drives the devastation seen in Parkinson’s victims,” says Goepp.

What causes this destruction? According to Goepp, it’s a result of multiple interacting destructive processes but they’re triggered by oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction and inflammation.

But it’s not all bad news. “Nutritional interventions acting through multiple mechanisms can slow or prevent the accumulation of brain cell damage that produces Parkinson’s disease,” says Dr. Goepp.

According to Goepp, the most promising of these nutritional interventions include creatine, omega-3 fatty acids, CoQ10, B vitamins (especially Vitamin B6), carnitine, lipoic acid , green tea extract and resveratrol.

Omega-3’s are the most anti-inflammatory substance on the planet. Says Goepp: “Supplementing with the omega-3 DHA can favorably modify brain functions and has been propsed as a natural intervention for (both) Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s management.”

The mitochondria are the little energy factories in every cell and when they’re damaged, mayhem ensues. One way they’re damaged is through the mechanism of oxidation (free radicals). Scientists have long looked for supplemental compounds with both energy-enhancing and antioxidant capabilities. “Excellent laboratory and clinical evidence suggests that CoQ10……is an outstanding contender in this field,” writes Goepp.

Note to readers: The thousands of studies on CoQ10 over the past several decades all used the common ubiquinone form of CoQ10. Recently there’s been quite a fuss made about a new — supposedly more absorbable — called Ubiquinol.

I’m not yet personally convinced that the research on ubiquinol is compelling enough to universally recommend it over the standard form (though that doesn’t stop those who market ubiquinol from asserting its superiority). In any case, for those who would like to try the new ubiquinol form, we now have a high-quality ubiquinol product that I think is as good as any competing product on the market and at a reasonable price. My own feeling is that either form will work.

The combination of Acetyl-L-Carnitine and  lipoic acid — which I wrote about in “The Most Effective Natural Cures on Earth” — has been shown to be helpful as well. Chinese researchers found that either nutrient or the combination, applied for 4 weeks prior to a Parkinson’s — inducing chemical, protected the cells from mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative damage.

“Most notably, the combination of supplements was effective at 100 – to 1000 – fold lower concentrations than were required for either acting alone — powerful evidence for (a synergy effect),” says Goepp.

Then there’s green tea. “Tea consumption is inversely correlated with the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease,” says internationally-noted Israeli neuroscientist Sylvia Mandel.

Other supplements that are important include resveratrol, B-vitamins (especially vitamin B6), and creatine.

“Nutrients that enhance brain energy utilization, prevent mitochondrial dysfunction, protect against oxidant damage and tame inflammation are among the leading contenders for anti-Parkinson’s therapies,” concludes Goepp.

I couldn’t agree more.