Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the study was reported in the July 9 edition of the website of Science Daily, among other outlets.
A Host of Positive Effects... on Mice
- Stopping the loss of the proteins Parkin and DJ-1 (we know from earlier studies that PWPs have brains with decreased amounts of these two proteins),
- Protecting brain cells,
- Normalizing neurotrasnsmitter levels, and
- Improving motor function in the mice with PD.
Cinnamaldehyde – the chemical that gives cinnamon its famous flavor and odor – is metabolized to sodium benzoate in the liver. Sodium benzoate can enter the brain and act as an anti-oxidant. At first glance, this seems very promising! Parkinson’s disease occurs when dopamine neurons in the midbrain start to die. Scientists are not positive why the dopamine cells start dying, but a popular hypothesis is that these neurons experience high ‘oxidative stress’, which causes cells to release poisonous molecules that result in cell death. So using an anti-oxidant to reduce oxidative stress makes good sense as a potential therapy for treating Parkinson’s disease.
In fact, it makes so much sense that scientists and doctors have already been trying it for decades – unfortunately, largely to no avail. While several anti-oxidant drugs have proved tantalizingly efficacious at treating Parkinson disease-like symptoms in mice, clinical studies have found no strong evidence that they work to alleviate Parkinson’s disease in humans.
Interestingly, however, people who eat more dietary anti-oxidants (like vitamin E) throughout life may be slightly protected from developing Parkinson’s disease (although this remains an ongoing debate). It might be informative to investigate whether people or societies with especially high cinnamon intake have lower rates of Parkinson’s disease.
While this recent study presents sufficient evidence to entertain further investigation into cinnamon as a potential therapy for Parkinson’s disease, the results do not represent new or innovative insights into what is already known about anti-oxidants, oxidative stress, and Parkinson’s disease. For now (at least where Parkinson’s disease is concerned) cinnamon still belongs in the spice rack, not the medicine cabinet.