A number of studies have examined the role of iron toxicity in Parkinson’s disease — most demonstrate that it is a major player.
The brain contains natural iron chelators (binding agents) that prevent damage to vulnerable neurons. The most important of these is ferritin, which is deficient in the brains of Parkinson’s sufferers, meaning they have reduced protection against iron toxicity.
Iron causes mischief is by triggering the generation of high levels of free radicals, especially the hydroxyl radical. Free radicals also come from immunoexcitotoxicity, a central mechanism in Parkinson’s disease.
Iron is a powerful activator of microglia, the brain’s immune cells. Studies of Parkinson’s patients has shown that they have early abnormalities in iron metabolism within the areas of the brain involved in the disease, as well as reduced antioxidant defenses in these same brain areas.
Using animal models of the disease, researchers have shown a significant benefit against Parkinson’s when utilizing iron chelators. Unfortunately, most chelating drugs have high toxicity and poor brain penetration. There are a number of natural iron-chelating substances found in plant extracts — hesperidin, quercetin, baicalein, IP6 (phytic acid), EGCG (from white and green tea) and curcumin. Several of these have been shown to have excellent brain penetration, such as hesperidin, curcumin and quercetin.
In addition, they are anti-inflammatory, reduce microglial activation and are powerful antioxidants all of which should help prevent and treat Parkinson’s disease. Within the brain, these natural chelators can help replace the lost ferritin.
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