Parkinsons Disease Research: A New Piece Of The Parkinson's Puzzle
Parkinson's disease, also called shaking palsy or paralysis agitans, is a degenerative disease of the brain.
When certain brain cells are damaged, it causes uncontrollable tremors of the hands, difficulty walking, muscle rigidity, balance problems, and many other disabling symptoms in the musculoskeletal system.
Parkinsons disease research has shown that some of the known causes of Parkinson's include damage to the brain from infections like encephalitis, head trauma like auto accidents or boxing (for example, Muhammad Ali), carbon monoxide poisoning, and some chemicals and medications.
Other risk factors may be genetic, or may involve aging.
Since this condition is currently considered chronic and progressive, researchers also look for ways to prevent Parkinson's, as well as researching new Parkinson's disease treatment programs.
Parkinsons disease research using a new animal study shows that antioxidant depletion in the brain may be involved in causing Parkinson's.
Researchers studied mice that were genetically susceptible to Parkinson's.
They found that when they created a glutathione depletion in the adult mice, the mice developed Parkinson's.
Glutathione is an antioxidant produced in our cells that helps our body repair damage from infections, trauma, pollution, and stress.
It can be obtained as a supplement, but eating glutathione is not yet a very effective way to increase the amounts in the body.
There is some evidence that intravenous infusions may give symptomatic improvement for Parkinson's patients.
The researchers recommend further study into protecting glutathione metabolism within the brain (Andersen J, Journal Neuroscience, 2007).
Could Green Tea Help Protect Against Parkinson's?
The above preliminary animal study found that depleting glutathione in older genetically-susceptible animals can cause Parkinson's.
Now a study has found that green tea catechin antioxidants can prevent the depletion of glutathione activity in the brains of aging animals.
Normally glutathione activity declines with age.
However, animals that consumed green tea catechin antioxidants maintained normal levels of glutathione in their brains.
In addition, animals with green tea showed greater protection against protein damage compared to older animals without green tea (Kishido T, Biogerontology, 2007).
Parkinson's disease statistics
Currently, Parkinson's disease affects over one million Americans, with an estimated three to four million undiagnosed.
Or Can Black Tea Help Protect Against Parkinson's?
One of the most important aspects of scientific research is that the results are reliable and valid. Results must make sense and they must prove true over time.
Research on green tea health benefits is in a rare position historically because the vast majority of the scientific studies have been done since the International Agency for Research on Cancer 1991 publication reviewing the effect of caffeine on human health (IARC, Volume 51, 1991).
As this body of research grows rapidly, the reliability and validity of health benefits of green tea become more clear.
But as new areas of research open, there are new questions to be answered.
We've seen that Parkinsons disease research shows that the reduction of naturally occurring glutathione antioxidants may be part of the development of Parkinson's disease.
We've seen preliminary studies showing that consuming green tea antioxidant catechins can help protect glutathione metabolism, even in older animals at high risk of Parkinson's disease.
Now there is a large study from Singapore showing that black tea reduces the risk of Parkinson's, but green tea does not show any risk reduction.
Does that new research make sense?
It may not make sense at first, but this study may be adding to the questions about Parkinsons disease research rather than solving all of them.
This new study reviews the health of 63,257 Chinese men and women over a 12-year period.
Both caffeine intake and black tea intake showed protection against Parkinson's disease, while green tea did not.
But the interesting result was that protection from black tea was separate from the protection from caffeine, which means that a different chemical in black tea was responsible for the protection (Tan LC, American Journal of Epidemiology, 2007).
Another study found that theaflavin protected brain cells in the substantia nigra (Parkinson's) using an animal model of MPTP/probenecid (MPTP/p) toxicity.
The black tea chemicals reduced cell degeneration and brain cell death, while protecting normal behavior (Anandhan A et al: Theaflavin, a black tea polyphenol, protects nigral dopaminergic neurons against chronic MPTP/probenecid induced Parkinson's disease, Brain Research, November 2011).
Chemicals in black tea that may be candidates for this kind of protection include the thearubigins and theaflavins. Some of their health effects include antioxidant activity.
So should people consider drinking black tea only?
Not so fast.
These studies needs to be validated with supporting research.
It's too early to draw conclusions from these Parkinsons disease research studies.
Green tea has shown benefits in dozens of health conditions, while black tea research is just starting.
A healthy approach may be to include green tea, and black tea, as well as oolong tea in your daily diet, if appropriate for your individual health condition.
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This page last updated by Sharon Jones on September 24, 2012
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