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My dad died of Parkinson’s when he was 83. It was about a ten-year process of watching his physical and mental abilities slip away.
So I have a particular interest in any new developments that might save other people frm watching that happen, to themselves or a loved one.
New research from two prestigious medical communities holds the promise of a future where a substance produced naturally in the body can be used to control the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease…
A hormone that’s secreted during exercise
Science has known for quite some time that endurance exercise alleviates symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. But it’s never been clear exactly how or why it does.
In 2012, Dr. Bruce Spiegelman of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston published a paper showing that endurance exercise causes a protein called an irisin peptide to be released into the blood in greater quantities.
Later, he wondered whether irisin, also considered a hormone, was the mechanism by which endurance exercise relieves Parkinson’s symptoms.
Together with Dr. Ted Dawson of Johns Hopkins Medicine, whose research focuses on neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Spiegelman set out to find out if irisin was central to the puzzle.
They engineered mouse brain cells to spread small, spindly fibers of a protein called alpha synuclein, which regulates moods and movements related to the brain neurotransmitter dopamine.
When alpha synuclein proteins clump, the clusters kill dopamine-producing brain cells — a key trigger of Parkinson’s disease.
In the laboratory model, the researchers found that irisin prevented the accumulation of alpha synuclein clumps, therefore saving those important dopamine-producing brain cells from destruction.
That was a big step forward — and they just kept coming…
Irisin blocks Parkinson’s symptoms
Next, the researchers tested the effects of irisin directly on mice with Parkinson’s-like symptoms.
They injected alpha synuclein into an area of the mouse brain where there are dopamine-producing neurons. Two weeks later, they increased the levels of irisin in the mice’s blood.
Six months later, the mice that had received irisin showed no muscle movement deficits. Mice who had received a placebo, on the other hand, showed deficits in grip strength and in their ability to descend a pole.
Further examination of the brain cells of mice injected with irisin showed that it lowered levels of Parkinson’s disease-related alpha synuclein between 50 and 80 percent.
Hopefully, this research will pave the way for an effective Parkinson’s disease therapy based on the hormone irisin.
How to boost your body’s irisin production
Endurance exercise, better known as aerobic exercise, is anything that increases your breathing and heart rate. This includes activities like jogging, swimming, biking, even walking briskly.
And now that you know what kind of exercise can help you increase irisin, you might want to know the many other ways it can improve your health — in addition to what you just read about its promising effects against Parkinson’s disease…
- Alzheimer’s, like Parkinson’s, is a neurodegenerative disease. And like Parkinson’s, research has shown irisin is the reason that aerobic exercise is the best prescription out there for preventing Alzheimer’s.
- Irisin boosts the expression of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a growth factor that helps maintain the brain’s neural network. A bonus benefit? BDNF helps to preserve the structure and function of nerve cells in the retina, even after these cells have been damaged.
- Irisin promotes healthy weight and strong bones because it turns on genes that boost metabolism to transform white fat to energy-burning brown fat, stops the development of fatty tissue and encourages stem cells to become bone-forming cells.
The moral of the story: Don’t slack off on your aerobic exercise.
The World Health Organization recommends 65 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week to prevent Alzheimer’s. From what we know, I’m pretty sure it will go a long way toward helping you produce enough irisin to support your whole body.
Editor’s note: While you’re doing all the right things to protect your brain as you age, make sure you don’t make the mistake 38 million Americans do every day — by taking a drug that robs them of an essential brain nutrient! Click here to discover the truth about the Cholesterol Super-Brain!
Amelioration of pathologic α-synuclein-induced Parkinson’s disease by irisin — PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)