Cinnamon could be a secret weapon in the battle against Parkinson’s disease. Scientists have found that the spice is the source of a chemical that can protect the brain.
Our liver converts cinnamon into sodium benzoate, an approved drug used in the treatment for neural disorders.
In a study of mice at Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago, a team of researchers found that the chemical then enters the brain, stops the loss of proteins that help protect cells, protects neurons and improves motor functions.
Lead researcher Professor Kalipada Pahan told the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology: ‘Cinnamon has been used widely as a spice throughout the world for centuries.
‘This could potentially be one of the safest approaches to halt disease progression in Parkinson’s patients.’
Professor Pahan said tests had shown that Ceylon cinnamon is better at halting Parkinson’s as it is more pure.
He said the next step is testing cinnamon on patients with the disease.
The study found that after being eaten, ground cinnamon is converted into the chemical sodium benzoate, which then enters the brain, stops the loss of Parkin and DJ-1, protects neurons, normalises neurotransmitter levels, and improves motor functions in mice with Parkinson’s disease.
Professor Pahan said: ‘Understanding how the disease works is important to developing effective drugs that protect the brain and stop the progression of Parkinson’s.’
Parkinson’s disease is a slowly progressive disease that affects a small area of cells within the mid-brain known as the substantia nigra.
Gradual degeneration of these cells causes a reduction in a vital chemical neurotransmitter, dopamine. The decrease in dopamine results in one or more of the classic signs of Parkinson’s disease that includes: resting tremor on one side of the body; slowness of movement; stiffness of limbs; and gait or balance problems.\
The cause of the disease is unknown, but both environmental and genetic causes have been speculated by experts.
While one in six patients are diagnosed before age 50, it is generally considered a disease that targets older adults, affecting one of every 100 persons over the age of 60.