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Exercise May Prevent Onset of Parkinson's

If you've been following the blog regularly, you've probably noticed a number of items I've posted very recently on the beneficial effects of exercise:

  • On your kids' bone mass
  • On the sedentary
  • As a flu vaccine

    Now, researchers have found exercise might one day provide a non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical way to protect adults against the onset of symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

    Experts agree, in most cases, Parkinson's develops due to long-term exposure to toxins in the environment and is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder caused by loss of dopamine-containing nerves in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra (SN). Common symptoms include tremors, muscular stiffness and other movement problems.

    Scientists showed that sustained exercise for at least three months prevented cell death in the SN of adult mice that otherwise occurs following injection of the MPTP toxin. Once in the SN, MPTP is converted into a highly reactive molecule called MPP+, which triggers the production of molecules called free radicals, which, in turn, damage brain cells.

    The key to the protective effect of exercise was the increased production of a protein called glial-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), which helps maintain the health of nerves and protects them against MPP+. Glia are special supportive cells in the brain that help to maintain nerve health.

    EurekAlert October 15, 2004

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