Berries May Lower Parkinson’s Risk

February 23, 2011 by  
Filed under Health

New research shows men and women who regularly eat berries may have a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Chocolate also lowers the risk so get out the strawberries and have a feast! Men may also further lower their risk by regularly eating apples, oranges and other sources rich in dietary components called flavonoids. The study was released last week and will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 63rd Annual Meeting in Honolulu.

Flavonoids are to be included in your daily diet wherever possible as they have a host of health benefits. They are found in berries of all kinds, chocolate, red wine, apples and citrus fruits such as grapefruit.

This is a 20 year large scale study of over 130,000 men and women who were given questionnaires which was then used to calculate their intake of flavonoids and this was then analyzed for any association with the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease

The men who consumed the most flavonoids were about 40 percent less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than those who consumed the least. This was not the case in women where no connection could be seen. However, when sub-classes of flavonoids were examined, regular consumption of anthocyanins, which are mainly obtained from berries, were found to be associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease in both men and women.

Study author Xiang Gao, MD, PhD, with the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, said “Our findings suggest that flavonoids, specifically a group called anthocyanins, may have neuroprotective effects. If confirmed, flavonoids may be a natural and healthy way to reduce your risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.”

So eat lots of fruit, stock up on berries of all kinds in particular, have the odd glass of red wine and bar of chocolate, and you can feel confident you are doing your best to reduce your risk.

Stem cells created for 10 genetic disorders

It was reported back in November 2007 last year that research teams in Wisconsin and Japan had reprogrammed skin cells, and that the cells had behaved like stem cells in a series of lab tests. This new technique could lead to treatments for diseases including Parkinson’s and more developments keep coming in.

Just last week, Harvard team of scientists said they had reprogrammed skin cells from two elderly patients with ALS, (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) a degenerative motor neuron disease, and grew the reprogrammed skin cells into nerve cells.

Now, scientists at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute in the USA say they have created stems cells for 10 genetic disorders, which will allow researchers to watch the diseases develop in a lab dish and watch what goes right, and wrong. This early step, using a new technique, could help speed up efforts to find treatments for some of the most confounding ailments and was reported online Thursday in the journal Cell.

Dr. George Daley and his colleagues used ordinary skin cells and bone marrow from people with a variety of diseases, including Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Down syndrome to produce the stem cells. Like the previous research, this technique reprogrammed the cells, giving them the chameleon-like qualities of embryonic stem cells, which can morph into all kinds of tissue, such as heart, nerve and brain. As with embryonic stem cells, the hope is to speed medical research into the degenerative diseases for which there are currently no good treatments and, more importantly, no good animal models for the most part in studying them.

The fizz that could be fatal

An ingredient widely used as a preservative in fizzy soft drinks has triggered alarm for several years but now it may be even more dangerous than was believed. Sodium benzoate (E211) has been identified, when linked with vitamin C in soft drinks, as a combination that forms benzene, a recognised carcinogen. The Food Standards Agency ordered four fizzy drinks removed from sale last year after unsafe levels of benzene were detected, though it is still present in many other soft drinks. Now scientists at Sheffield University have identified another danger from E211 in that when it was tested on living yeast cells in a laboratory it was seen that the benzoate was damaging an important area of DNA. Peter Piper, the lead researcher, stated that ‘these chemicals have the ability to cause severe damage to DNA in the mitochondria to the point that they totally inactivate it: they knock it out altogether. If the mitochondria is damaged then the cell starts to malfunction very seriously”. Diseases that are linked with damage to this DNA include Parkinson’s, cirrhosis of the liver, a number of neuro-degenerative diseases and of course the whole process of ageing. I am a great advocate of label checking, I am the one standing in the supermarket aisle for ten minutes trying to read the small print, and in this case it would be sensible to see whether your favourite soft drink contains the vitamin C and E211 combination.