Life Extension Update
Green tea may protect the brain in Parkinson’s disease
The December 15, 2007 issue of the journal Biological Psychiatry published the results of a study conducted by Dr Baolu Zhao of the Academia Sinica in Beijing, China and his colleagues, which found a protective effect on the brain for green tea extract in an animal model of Parkinson’s disease. Previous research conducted by Dr Zhao’s team found that tea polyphenols, which have an antioxidant effect, were associated with an in-vitro neuroprotective benefit.
Parkinson’s disease results from the loss of cells in the brain that produce dopamine. Current treatments, while responsible for some improvements, are not a cure and can have serious side effects. The reactive oxygen species-nitric oxide pathway may contribute to cell death in Parkinson’s disease. In the current research, Dr Zhao’s team determined that treatment with green tea polyphenols dose-dependently protected dopamine-producing neurons in rats treated with the dopaminergic cell neurotoxin 6–OHDA, by preventing an increase in the brain of reactive oxygen species and nitric oxide, lipid peroxidation, nitrite/nitrate, and other factors. The treatment also preserved the free radical scavenging capability of both the midbrain and the striatum in a dose-dependent manner.
Dr Zhao expressed the hope that “green tea polyphenols may be developed into a safe and easily administrable drug for Parkinson’s disease.” Biological Psychiatry’s editor John H. Krystal, MD of Yale University predicted that “if green tea consumption can be shown to have meaningful neuroprotective actions in patients, this would be an extremely important advance.”
Parkinson’s disease is a devastating brain disorder that gradually robs people of the ability to control their own movements. While the causes and cure of this affliction remain elusive, progressive scientists are continuing to unravel this disease.
The ideal treatment for Parkinson’s disease would be a neuroprotective agent— a treatment that protects the brain. While no neuroprotective prescription agent has been found, studies suggest that high-dose coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), a natural agent, may have neuroprotective properties. CoQ10 is known to support mitochondria by enhancing energy levels in the brain, as well as by acting as a powerful antioxidant. In one phase 2 clinical trial, CoQ10 significantly slowed the progression of Parkinson’s disease (Beal MF 2003).
While the underlying defect involves a defective mitochondrial electron transport chain, experts agree that most of the actual damage that occurs during Parkinson’s disease is caused by extremely high levels of oxidative stress. Not surprisingly, high levels of antioxidants, such as vitamin E and vitamin C, have been shown to relieve symptoms by protecting brain cells.
Polyphenols are antioxidants found in green tea, which are being investigated for their potential to protect against Parkinson’s disease (Weinreb O et al 2004). Polyphenols are also found in extracts of grape seeds and other plants. Like the bioflavonoids, they are powerful antioxidants. They may also inhibit the nerve cell damage in diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
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