Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Parkinson’s: Dietary compound moves toxic protein from gut to brain

A recent study in rats reveals that a now-banned herbicide and a common food-derived chemical can work together to produce symptoms similar to those present in Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition. Brain cells in the substantia nigra – a region vital for motor control – slowly break down. The most common Parkinson’s symptoms are rigidity and tremor. The condition is most common in older adults. To date, there is no cure and no way to prevent the disease from progressing.

A protein called alpha-synuclein plays a pivotal role in Parkinson’s; it clumps together to form part of larger structures called Lewy bodies. These appear to kill the brain cells. A potential risk factor that has sparked debate is exposure to an herbicide called paraquat. Once widely used, the United States banned it in 2007.

Experiments have demonstrated that administering paraquat can cause Parkinson’s-like symptoms, or Parkinsonism, in rodents. However, the levels of pesticide the scientists used in those experiments are way above what a human would ever experience.

Recently, researchers at Penn State College of Medicine wanted to understand exactly how paraquat could travel from the stomach to impart protein buildup in the brain. They have now published their results in the journal NPJ Parkinson’s Disease.

To investigate, the researchers fed rats small doses of paraquat for 7 days. They also fed them lectins, which are sugar-binding proteins present in foods such as raw vegetables, eggs, and grains.

Manufacturers of some types of medication also use lectins; they act as chaperones, helping deliver drugs to the brain or stomach. In the past, scientists have shown an association between taking drugs that contain lectin and developing Parkinsonism.

As study co-author Prof. Thyagarajan Subramanian explains, “We were able to demonstrate that if you have oral paraquat exposure, even at very low levels, and you also consume lectins… then it could potentially trigger the formation of this protein – alpha-synuclein – in the gut. Once it’s formed, it can travel up the vagus nerve and to the part of the brain that triggers the onset of Parkinson’s disease.”

My Take:
Paraquat was banned in Europe in 2007 and is being phased out in China. However, it is still used in the United States but only by commercially licensed companies. The U.S. also manufactures paraquat and exports it around the world. Round-Up (glyphosate) is now the most popular herbicide in world, manufactured by Monsanto.

Dr. Steven Gundry, a former cardiac surgeon, is the anti-lectin guru. He produces a line of supplements that prevent lectin absorption from the gut. I have studied his work and even tried some of his supplements, but I’m not convinced that his theories are correct.

Bottom Line:
Please avoid ingestion of paraquat or glyphosate. The easiest way to do that is to avoid GMO foods or foreign grown foods. GMO foods have been genetically modified to tolerate direct application of Round-Up. Large scale farmers spray Round-Up directly on our growing food to kill the surrounding weeds and increase their harvest. Asia and South America are the biggest users of paraquat.

Source: December 10, 2018 NIH

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