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Omega-3 Fatty Acids vs. Parkinson’s?

Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Help Prevent Parkinson’s Disease, Tests in Mice Show

The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids may include trimming the chance of developing Parkinson’s disease.

A new Canadian study shows that mice that eat chow laced with omega-3 fatty acids may have better brain defenses against Parkinson’s disease.

Not familiar with omega-3 fatty acids? Your body including your brain needs them to be healthy.

The omega-3 fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) are found in fish, including salmon and mackerel.

Another omega-3 fatty acid called ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is found in leafy green vegetables, nuts, flaxseed, and vegetable oils such as canola and soy oil.

The body can’t make omega-3 fatty acids. But you can get them from foods or supplements.

Omega-3 fatty acids are being studied for their effects on heart health, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and other conditions. Now, you can add Parkinson’s disease to that list.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Parkinson’s Disease

In the new Canadian study, some mice got chow laced with DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids. Other mice got ordinary chow, which totally lacked DHA.

The mice followed those diets for 10 months. Then they got a dose of a chemical that kills the same brain cells that die in Parkinson’s disease.

The mice on the DHA diet lost fewer of those cells than the mice that ate ordinary chow.

“Our results suggest that this DHA deficiency is a risk factor for developing Parkinson’s disease, and that we would benefit from evaluating omega-3’s potential for preventing this disease in humans,” says Frederic Calon, PhD, in a news release.

Calon, who works in Quebec at the Universite Laval, notes that the typical North American diet skimps on omega-3 fatty acids.

More information at TEM Todo en Medicamentos.


Can Painkillers Prevent Parkinson’s?

Parkinson’s Disease Risk Lower in Users of Over-the-Counter Pain Pills

Frequent users of over-the-counter pain pills such as ibuprofen have a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, UCLA researchers find.

The finding supports earlier studies suggesting that inflammation-fighting drugs prevent Parkinson’s disease — and maybe other neurodegenerative diseases, too. As their name implies, the painkillers known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs reduce inflammation. These drugs include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin are common brand names), and naproxen (Aleve is a common brand name).

Beate Ritz, PhD, UCLA professor of epidemiology, environmental health sciences, and neurology, and colleagues enrolled 293 Parkinson’s patients within three years of their diagnosis. They also enrolled 286 people without Parkinson’s disease matching the patients in age, race, and sex.

They found that regular users of NSAIDS other than aspirin had a 48% lower risk of Parkinson’s disease. Those who took non-aspirin NSAIDs for two or more years had a 56% lower risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Women who took aspirin also had a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease. This wasn’t true for men who took aspirin.

“There may be something going on in the process leading to Parkinson’s disease that can be suppressed with an anti-inflammatory medication,” Ritz tells Todo en Medicamentos.

Inflammation: Key to Parkinson’s Disease?

Inflammation is one of the body’s most basic and most powerful immune responses. Inflammation that goes on too long, in the wrong place and at the wrong time, results in a number of diseases.

Parkinson’s disease is not usually considered an inflammatory disease. During Parkinson’s disease, there’s a die-off of brain cells that make dopamine, a vital chemical messenger. Ritz suggests that this process may begin with the death of a few dopamine-producing cells.

“There’s always a little inflammation when cells die,” Ritz says. “These clean-up crews of cells with immune function show up and release substances that attract other cells that give off inflammatory signals. This inflammation impairs the working dopamine-producing cells in some way and maybe even kills them.”

If a person were taking NSAIDs at the time this process began, Ritz suggests, the drugs might dampen these overactive immune responses and stop the vicious cycle leading to Parkinson’s disease.

It’s not a far-fetched theory, says University of Rochester neurologist Karl Kieburtz, chairman of the Parkinson’s Study Group, an international consortium of researchers that runs clinical trials of possible treatments for Parkinson’s disease.

“Inflammation is thought to be part of the disease process in a number of neurodegenerative disorders,” Kieburtz tells Todo en Medicamentos. “That NSAID use might be linked to decreased risk makes sense.”

What does not make sense is for anyone to start taking NSAIDs just to prevent possible Parkinson’s disease. Steady use of these drugs can have serious side effects, including life-threatening internal bleeding.

Only a clinical trial can show whether people at high risk of Parkinson’s disease might benefit from some kind of anti-inflammatory treatment. Until researchers can determine whether the drugs really do prevent neurodegeneration and at what dose Ritz and Kieburtz agree that nobody should take NSAIDs or aspirin just to prevent Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease.

More information at TEM Todo en Medicamentos.