Good Nutrition Nutrition and Nutrients

Nutrition Notes

Folic acid and Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson's disease occurs when nerve cells die or become impaired and can no longer produce dopamine. Without it, individuals can develop tremor or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face; rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk; bradykinesia, or slowness of movement; and postural instability or impaired balance and coordination. Patients may also have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks. Parkinson's is not usually inherited; the incidence of the disease increases with age, with an average onset at about 60 years.

In an NIA report, mouse experiments suggested that folic acid deficiency could increase the brain’s susceptibility to Parkinson’s disease. Investigators fed one group of mice a diet that included folate, while a second group was fed a diet lacking this vitamin. They then gave the mice MPTP, a chemical that can cause Parkinson-like symptoms. In the mice fed folate, MPTP caused only mild symptoms of disease. But mice fed the folate-deficient diet developed severe Parkinson’s symptoms.

Mice with low amounts of dietary folic acid had elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood and brain. ..homocysteine in the brain may damage the DNA of nerve cells in the substantia nigra, a brain system that produces dopamine. Loss of dopamine activity causes the symptoms of PD. In mice fed adequate amounts of folate, dopamine-producing nerve cells were able to repair damaged DNA and counteract the adverse effects of homocysteine. However, similar nerve cells in folate-deficient mice could not repair extensive DNA damage. As a result, these cells died.

People who develop PD often have low levels of folic acid in their blood… adequate amounts of folic acid—either in the diet or by supplementation—could help protect the aging brain against Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases

Folic acid deficiency diseases: Anemia, Neural Tube Defects, Arterial Disease, Dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, Colon and Breast Cancer. RDA 200 ug/day; 400 ug during pregnancy; 280 ug during lactation. Supplement Recommendation: 400 to 1000 ug/day