Parkinson's Disease: Is it Caused by Impaired Detoxification?
It may be worth altering your diet and supplementation strategy a bit if you are concerned about Parkinson's, and let me tell you why.
First, I define Parkinson's disease. Then I delve into the new scientific case for the toxicity model for the cause of Parkinson's disease. I discuss the biphasic detoxification model, endogenous and exogenous toxins, anecdotal observations, and I close by offering specific recommendations for preventing Parkinson's disease.
What is Parkinson's Disease?
Parkinson disease (PD) is a progressive and irreversible degenerative neurological disease characterized by a subtle onset of symptoms of flat facial affect, slowed movement, speech changes, tremor, and in the later stages, dementia. It afflicts about 1% of the population over 60, and about 4% of the population over 80.
Searching for the Cause of Parkinson's Disease
The search for the cause of PD has been focused on two main cell abnormalities found in dopamine producing cells of PD sufferers. These are impaired mitochondrial function, and protein clumps called Lewy Bodies.
However, there is a deeper mechanism at play that may be the underlying cause of both the protein clumping and mitochondrial dysfunction associated with PD, and that something is called endogenous toxicity.
Endogenous toxicity means toxicity of an internal origin. In this case, the theory is that the Phase I metabolite of Dopamine itself is causing the toxicity, dysfunction, and death of the dopamine producing neurons. Dopamine is broken down into a toxic metabolite called DOPAL. DOPAL is then broken down to non-toxic metabolites by the Phase II enzyme Aldehyde Dehydrogenase (ALDH for short). These two phases together are known as "biphasic detoxification."
It appears that ALDH activity is deficient in the brains of PD patients, leading to DOPAL toxicity in the dopamine producing neurons. Basically, PD patients have impaired Phase II detoxification, leading to a buildup of the toxic Phase I dopamine metabolite, DOPAL.
DOPAL toxicity leads to cell aberrations like protein clumping, mitochondrial dysfunction and eventually cell death. Mitochondria are the power-generating organelles of the cell.
The reduced mitochondrial function in PD is why nutritional ingredients like CoEnzyme Q10 and Creatine are being studied for their possible positive effect on PD.
Scientific Evidence for the DOPAL Toxicity in Parkinson's Disease
There is a wealth of scientific evidence incriminating DOPAL. DOPAL has been shown to increase the protein clumps in the brains of rats. DOPAL has been shown to be toxic to dopamine producing neurons. DOPAL injected into the brains of rats creates PD-like symptoms.
Researchers have shown that the brains of Parkinson's patients have over 4 times the DOPAL levels of non-Parkinson's brains. N-Acetyl-Cysteine, which increases ALDH activity, has been shown to stop toxicity-induced death of dopamine producing neurons in mice.
The Hangover Chemical
Aldehyde conjugate molecules are common byproducts of the first stage (Phase I) of detoxification of various toxins like alcohol, nicotine, and many others. Acetyl-Aldehyde, the toxic Aldehyde conjugate of alcohol, is known as the "hangover chemical." People who have a less-effective mutated form of Aldehyde Dehydrogenase? Have very poor? alcohol tolerance, and increased incidence of Parkinson's Disease and coronary heart disease.
If you get hangovers from even moderate amounts of alcohol, this is a major warning sign that your Phase II detoxification may be impaired.
Exogenous Toxic Load Creating Endogenous Toxicity
ALDH requires "thiol" groups to detoxify Aldehyde conjugate molecules like DOPAL. Thiols are sulfur-bearing molecules that are supplied by amino acids like Cysteine, Methionine, and Taurine.
If you run out, then your Aldehyde detoxification is impaired. It seems very likely that exogenous toxin exposures like herbicides, pesticides, solvents, and metals may use up your sulfur-bearing amino-acids and then leave you vulnerable to damaging your dopamine producing neurons with toxic DOPAL build-up.
Factors that Decrease Aldehyde Detoxification
ALDH activity is decreased by the following factors: Fasting, a low-protein diet (less than 5%), Vitamin A deficiency, and excess isothiocyanate intake. Isothiocyanates are toxic molecules found in the cruciferous vegetable family (broccoli, cabbage, etc.), actually healthy in small amounts, but unhealthy in large amounts. I generally recommend that crucifers make up 20% or less of your total vegetable intake. Another natural component of food that inhibits ALDH activity is Citral, a citrus-smelling compound found in lemons, limes, oranges, and lemongrass, among others. This is one reason why I recommend people showing signs of impaired detoxification stop citrus fruit intake completely. Also, there is long list of exogenous agricultural toxins that inhibit ALDH activity; they include pesticides, herbicides, growth modification agents, and fungicides.
Factors that Increase Aldehyde Detoxification
These factors include Vitamin A, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Methionine, Cysteine, N-Acetyl-Cysteine, Taurine, and Magnesium. An odd one is Vitamin E deficiency. Perhaps this is a good argument for not taking high levels of Vitamin E.
Anecdotal Reasons Why Parkinson's Disease is Probably IS Caused by Impaired Detoxification
If you have read this far, you understand that I do believe that Parkinson's Disease is caused by impaired detoxification. There are two anecdotal observations that I have that fit this hypothesis.
First, Parkinson's Disease patients commonly have a history of long-term exposure to some sort of toxic load. Smoking, agricultural chemicals, or even just solvents used in automotive repair.
Second, is the observation that Parkinson's Disease patients who take L-Dopa seem to get worse faster. This makes sense, because L-Dopa increases Dopamine levels (improving symptoms in the short term), but the increased Dopamine levels means increases toxic DOPAL levels, speeding up the progression of the disease.
How to Prevent Parkinson's Disease
Do everything you can to fight both internal and external toxicity. Limit your exposure to agricultural industry toxins. Eat plenty of protein, vegetables and legumes. Don't eat excessive amounts of cruciferous vegetables or citrus fruits. Supplement your diet with broad-spectrum of detox-enhancing nutrients that emphasize Phase II support. Take fish oil. Get plenty of Vitamin D from sunlight.
If you want to fast, be sure to support your fast with a supplement that has plenty of detox nutrition. Some of my favorite supplements for this are Detox I & II, UltraClear Plus, and concentrated green foods.
Take these steps and I am confident that the chances of you getting Parkinson's Disease will be greatly reduced.