Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Diet and Parkinson's disease

I've been studying nutrition and the brain for awhile now, and it's clear I'm a big fan of omega-3 fatty acids. It's only been recently that their role in Parkinson's disease prevention is becoming clear.

Oxidative stress, or aging, is to the brain what rust is to your car. In Parkinson's disease, oxidation appears to significantly affect the brain systems regulating dopamine.

In this study, rat brain tissue was exposed to several by-products of fatty acids found in the brain, docosahexaenoic acid and arachidonic acid. It turned out that the arachidonic acid--derived compound was the most toxic to brain cells.

Arachidonic acid is derived from two main sources, certain dietary oils, and meats. It's fairly easy to identify the oils that promote arachidonic acid production. They tend to be those, which in English, begin with the letters "S" and "C"; soybean, safflower, sunflower, sesame, corn, cottonseed...the only exception would be canola. These oils have been unloaded into the food supply in recent years and as they have, many diseases, not just Parkinson's, have been on the upswing. Start reading your labels!

Arachidonic acid is also found in meat. So if you are eating large portions of meat instead of balancing your protein with other types of food, your diet may be out of balance and promoting inflammation/oxidation/aging, particularly in the nervous system. Some rules to follow which you've heard before, for other reasons, include: eat more seafood and less red meat, eat more vegetarian meals, and limit your meat portions to the size of the palm of your hand without the fingers.

Parkinson's is not a problem to be taken lightly. If you have ever known someone who has had to deal with the tremors and deterioration in quality of life...you know what I mean. Some very simple dietary choices may help you to delay or prevent having to personally deal with this challenging diagnosis.

Liu X, Yamada N, Maruyama W, Osawa T. Formation of dopamine adducts derived from brain polyunsaturated fatty acids: mechanism for Parkinson disease. J Biol Chem. 2008 Dec 12;283(50):34887-95. Epub 2008 Oct 15.

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