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Vitamins may slow Parkinson's disease.


Can vitamins E and C slow the progress of Parkinson's disease (PD)? Patients in the early stages of PD who were given the vitamins in a study conducted in New York showed slower progression of the disease than those who were not treated with the vitamins. Researchers predict the vitamins will commonly be used someday in conjunction with the drug Sinemet, that contains levodopa, the current drug of choice in the treatment of PD.

The daily Recommended Dietary Allowance of vitamin E, as established by the National Academy of Sciences, is 10 mg. for men and women. The daily RDA for vitamin C is 60 mg. Beginning in 1979, Dr. Stanley Fahn of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons began recommending extremely high daily dosages of vitamin E (3200 mg.) and vitamin C (3000 mg.) to patients in the early stages of the disease not already on levodopa. Of the 14 patients taking the dosages, Fahn discovered that the patients took anywhere from 31 to 94 months before they required levodopa therapy. Fahn monitored the 14 patients for a period of at least four years during his study.

Parkinson's Disease, defined as a chronic nervous disease characterized by tremors, muscular rigidity and weakness, recently claimed the life of noted verse writer Richard Armour. Persons afflicted with PD walk with a peculiar, bent gait; they also exhibit expressionless faces, slow and measured speech, and a tendency to fall backwards when walking. Because muscles become rigid, PD patients experience a great deal of pain, as well as numbness, tingling, and/or a sensation of heat. PD generally strikes abruptly, with the first symptom a fine tremor in the hand of foot that spreads until the other body members are affected. Recovery rarely, if ever, occurs. It may take years of slow, agonizing pain until the disease finally runs its course, or death results.

Parkinson's Disease is caused by the brain's lack of ability to produce dopamine, the substance that brain cells use for communication purposes. No one is sure why this happens, although Fahn theorizes that the brain cells producing the dopamine are harmed by substances created within the cells themselves. Either the body cannot handle these substances, or it produces too many of them; thus PD results. Drug therapy with levodopa and/or surgical removal of the thalamus of the brain, can relieve the tremors but are not cures. Levodopa is responsible for a number of adverse reactions, including nausea, insomnia, hallucinations, blurred vision, lethargy, and loss of hair. Vitamin E, on the other hand, appears to act as a scavenger to either neutralize the substances created within the cells or, in combination with vitamin C, to slow down the progression of the disease.

Fahn recommends that a larger, more controlled clinical study be instituted to explore these possibilities. If the vitamins can slow the course of the disease, Fahn theorizes, perhaps levodopa therapy can at least be delayed, thus alleviating the nasty side effects for PD patients.
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Title Annotation:vitamins E and C
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Apr 1, 1989
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