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New Research Suggests that Parkinson’s May Begin in the Gut

Following a new research study carried out by scientists at the Aarhus University in Denmark, it’s been suggested that Parkinson’s may actually begin in the gut before spreading upwards through the nervous system to the brain. While, up until recently, this has merely been put forward as a theory, this new research adds important evidence to support such a claim and gives researchers hope that we may soon have a better understanding of this condition.

The team studied the medical records of 15,000 people

The study was published in the scientific journal, Annals of Neurology, and was based on the medical records of 15,000 people who had undergone a procedure to sever the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is located in the stomach and is the main pathway of communication between the gut and the brain. This kind of procedure was a common treatment for ulcers in the mid 90s. The team wanted to see how many of the people who’d undergone the procedure went on to develop Parkinson’s in later life.

So what did the researchers find?

The researchers discovered that the people who had their vagus nerve severed completely had a lower incidence of developing Parkinson’s than the group who’d only had a small part of their vagus nerve severed. This finding added further evidence to the theory that Parkinson’s may begin in the gut, particularly as it’s found that many Parkinson’s sufferers experience digestive problems, such as constipation, with most developing these changes before the emergence of the movement problems normally associated with Parkinson’s.

An important part of the puzzle of how and why Parkinson’s develops

While our understanding of how Parkinson’s develops and how it may spread through the body is very much in its infancy, this recent research does seem to confirm the theory that it may start in the gut, rather than in the brain. Furthermore, through this study, the team have contributed an important part of the puzzle that could help scientists understand more about the risk factors for Parkinson’s, and could ultimately lead to developing a treatment that could prevent Parkinson’s completely.

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