A new study published in this month’s Neurology suggests that if you’re a man and you have a high level of urate in your blood, it may indicate that you’re less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease. A powerful antioxidant, urate or uric acid makes up almost 60% of the free radical scavengers in the blood, and is thought to have the ability to protect brain cells
Parkinson’s disease usually appears in people over the age of 60. It’s a motor system disorder which is caused by the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells, with symptoms including tremor or trembling, rigidity or stiffness in the limbs of the body. Sufferers also experience problems with balance and coordination, and their movements may become slower. The symptoms worsen over time, until it becomes difficult to carry out even basic tasks. While there is currently no cure for Parkinson’s, there are treatments available which, by mimicking or replacing the role of the dopamine, can offer relief from the symptoms.
The researchers at Pennsylvania State University
The team of researchers at Pennsylvania State University began their study by looking at the data gleaned from over 90,000 participants in three ongoing studies. They then carried out blood tests to measure the level of urate in the blood of specific participants, comparing the levels from a sample of 388 people who had developed Parkinson’s disease after the start of one of the studies, with 1,267 who showed no signs of the disease. Their findings showed that the men with highest levels of urate were almost 40% less likely to go develop Parkinson’s than those with low levels of urate in their blood. The team also took account of other risk factors, such as age, smoking and use of caffeine.
From their results, the team concluded that urate may have a protective effect against the development of Parkinson’s disease or that it may slow down the disease before the typical symptoms appear. However, the researchers also explained that while the results do show an association with a lower risk, it doesn’t actually show that urate does offer any protection, and that further research is needed to see whether it’s possible to slow down Parkinson’s in those people with early symptoms by raising the level of urate in their blood. If this is found to be successful, it has very positive implications for future treatments as it’s relatively easy to raise the level, although it does have to be carefully controlled as increased urate can lead to kidney stones and gout.
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