Folic acid might help forestall Parkinson's disease, according to a study by the U.S. National Institute of Aging.
The research, published in the January 2002 issue of the Journal of Neurochemistry, revealed that mice on a folate-rich diet fed MPTP, a substance that provokes Parkinson's-like pathology, developed only mild symptoms. Mice deficient in folate were more sensitive to the effects of MPTP.
The mice with low folic-acid intake also exhibited elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood and brain. Researchers theorized that high levels of homocysteine damage the DNA of nerve cells in the substantia nigra—a part of the brain that produces dopamine—which might lead to Parkinson's disease. Insufficient dopamine causes nerve cells to malfunction and can lead to a loss of motor control.
The nerve cells of mice then fed adequate amounts of folic acid were able to reverse the damage to DNA and counteract the effects of homocysteine; nerve cells in mice with inadequate intake were unable to correct the damaged DNA.
This study provides evidence that folic acid may be critical in protecting adult nerve cells against age-related diseases, according to the researchers.
The upshot? Researchers recommend that anyone with a family history or those at high risk of contracting Parkinson's disease consider supplementing with 400 mcg of folic acid daily.
Barbara Hey is senior editor of Delicious Living.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIII/number 3/p. 12