Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Natural Anti-Oxidant Provides Clues for Parkinson’s Treatment

A naturally occurring anti-oxidant in humans has lead researchers to believe there is a link between serum urate levels and the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

Urate, once believed to be a useless a by-product of metabolism, is now thought to play "an important role in keeping us healthy," according to Alberto Ascherio, MD, of the Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts. The study is published in the April 14 Online First issue of the Archives of Neurology.

The authors found that patients who had the highest levels of serum urate had the slowest progression of early Parkinson’s disease. Data from the PRECEPT study was used, which involved 806 people with Parkinson’s disease; followed between April 2002 and April 2004. Baseline urate measurements were obtainable in 804 of the participants, and the study included men and women. The group was at least 30 years of age, and not receiving traditional drug therapy for Parkinson’s disease. Data from sixty five sites across the US and Canada were reviewed.

Urate levels were higher in males, those with obesity, gout, high blood pressure, and increased body mass index. Certain types of diuretics also increase uric acid levels in the body. As urate levels declined, symptoms of Parkinson’s disease progressed. The correlation was strongest among the men, and the researchers don’t exactly know why women seem to be protected.

Since the whole process is complex as it relates to anti-oxidant protection, we still don’t know exactly where this study will lead. "Urate captures the oxygen and prevents the damage to other molecules; it's a sort of scavenger of oxygen," according to Dr. Ascherio. He added that researchers do not yet fully understood the exact protective mechanism involving urate. Alcohol and sugars increase serum urate levels, while dairy products and Vitamin C decrease urate levels, but produce high levels of ascorbates which are also powerful anti-oxidants. High serum urate levels in the body increase the risk of gout, heart disease and kidney stones. Thus, for now, the authors can only speculate about the protective mechanism of urate.

Inosine is a precursor to urate. The Michael J. Fox Foundation has provided 5.6 million dollars to fund a phase 2 clinical trial to determine the safety and tolerability of Inosine, which is available as a supplement. They hope to see if Inosine can safely raise urate levels. We know that high levels can lead to gout, heart disease and kidney stones.

I can't help but be reminded of the beauty of synergy and balance. When we study a part of the whole, of course, we are lead to further mysteries.

Another thought - urine therapy (urate is excreted by the kidneys) has been advocated across many cultures, and for centuries. I’m not recommending it - I’m just saying…..

You can read more about the history urine therapy at The Skeptics Dictionary.

Archive of Neurology: Published online April 14, 2008. ◦