Steer clear of calcium to prevent Parkinson's disease

New research shows that excess calcium in brain cells may be the cause of Parkinson's disease.

Published: by Interim HealthCare in Chronic Disease

While there is still no cure for Parkinson's disease, there are various prevention and treatment methods that help patients manage the symptoms. And while the search for a cure is ongoing, researchers continue to study Parkinson's in an effort to understand the nature of the disease and how it affects patients.

In a recent study, a research team led by the University of Cambridge analyzed the proteins and toxic clusters that are present in the brain cells of Parkinson's patients to further their understanding of why and how they develop. Published in Nature Communications, the team's findings discovered how excess levels of calcium may be the cause.

Calcium throws off balance

Parkinson's disease develops when proteins fold in the wrong shape and attach themselves to other proteins to form structures of alpha-synuclein, also known as Lewy bodies. The researchers used super-resolution microscopy techniques to look inside these brain cells and assess their behavior.

This particular analysis focused on the part of the cells that stores neurotransmitters, which send messages between the brain cells. Calcium plays an important role in the release of these neurotransmitters. The researchers noticed that when calcium levels increased, they promoted the development of the Lewy bodies.

When calcium is present, the alpha-synuclein changes its shape and how it interacts with its environment, which is part of its normal function. However, there has to be an equal balance of the calcium and alpha-synuclein. Once there is too much of one or the other, the Lewy bodies begin to develop, which then leads to Parkinson's disease. The researchers believe that in addition to increased calcium levels, the imbalance can be caused by genetic duplication of the alpha-synuclein or age-related protein breakdowns.

Avoiding dairy

Considering an excessive calcium build-up could potentially lead to Parkinson's, avoiding dairy could end up being a smart method of preventing the development of the disease. The Parkinson's Foundation further recommended a healthy diet with limited fat intake, including whole grains, vegetables, fruits, vitamins, minerals, fiber and carbohydrates. Instead of milk, those at risk for Parkinson's, or already diagnosed with the disease, should aim to drink at least six glasses of water each day.

Along with dietary precautions, this new knowledge may help researchers develop future Parkinson's treatments targeted at blocking calcium.

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