Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of movement due to malfunctioning of nerve cells of the brain.
The specific cause for the same is unknown and so the treatment lies in medication and surgery.
Dopamine is an important chemical that is secreted from the nerve cells which controls movements of the body.
In Parkinson’s, the number of these nerve cells reduce drastically and hence, dopamine is no longer available in appropriate amounts to control body movements.
The symptoms of Parkinson’s varies from person to person but the main symptoms include tremor (shaking) of hands, arms, legs, face, and jaw, bradykinesia (slow movements), rigidity or stiffness of limbs and imbalance in posture as well as coordination .
To decipher the cause of Parkinson’s, scientists have observed that the patient’s brain has clumps of a protein called α‒synuclein, commonly referred to as Lewy bodies.
The presence of this protein is related to secondary symptoms such as depression, anxiety, mood swings, genitourinary problems.
Researchers are working on improvising therapy for patients of Parkinson’s. There are medications that treat the symptoms.
However, neuroprotective drugs (drugs which slows the progression of Parkinson’s) are in the pipeline.
What is Spirulina?
Spirulina is blue-green algae or cyanobacteria. The most common one is Spirulina platensis.
It is also referred to as Arthrospira.
It is generally used as a dietary supplement because it is rich in protein and is referred to as Single Cell Protein (SCP).
Its active ingredients with therapeutic importance are phycocyanin, carotenoids, and omega‒3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
It has an antioxidant property .
It is regarded as a nutraceutical which has both nutritional as well as health benefits.
7 Proven Benefits of Spirulina in Parkinson’s
Spirulina can prove beneficial for Parkinson’s due to its therapeutic properties.
1. It Acts as an Antioxidant
The free radicals or reactive oxygen is known to cause damage to the brain cells (nerve cells).
Hence, foods which are rich in antioxidants (compounds which inhibit the production of free radicals) can be beneficial in slowing the progression of the disease.
Studies have shown that the antioxidant activity of Spirulina prevents the death of nerve cells by decreasing the concentration of free radicals, inhibiting oxidation of lipids and activating the antioxidant system of the body .
These findings suggest that consumption of Spirulina can be an effective strategy to protect the brain from damage which is of utmost importance to the patients of Parkinson’s.
What does this Mean? The antioxidant property of the phytochemicals present in Spirulina can be very efficient in preventing brain damage in patients of Parkinson’s i.e. it can slow the progression of the disease in patients.
2. It Improves Motor Control in Parkinson's
The movements of the body are majorly affected by Parkinson’s.
The active component, phycocyanin (a phytochemical) present in Spirulina has therapeutic effects as it improves locomotor activity i.e. movement of the body in Parkinson’s study model .
Dietary supplementation of Spirulina reduces cellular stress.
The antioxidant nature of Spirulina boosts lifespan and improves locomotor behavior in patients of Parkinson’s.
What does this Mean? Spirulina can prove effective in improving body movement in patients of Parkinson’s disease.
3. It is Neuroprotective
Studies have shown that a polysaccharide obtained from Spirulina platensis is protective for dopamine-producing neurons (nerve or brain cells) .
The antioxidant property of polysaccharide protects the degradation of nerve cells. This maintains the concentration of dopamine which regulates and coordinates movements of the body.
An increase in a protein named α‒synuclein is responsible for Parkinson’s disease. Researchers have found out that dietary Spirulina increases the expression of fractalkine receptor (CX3CR1) on microglia (immune cells of the brain) .
This receptor is neuroprotective as it reduces the damage to nerve cells.
What does this Mean? This suggests that Spirulina protects the brain from damage (neuroprotective) by preventing the destruction of dopamine-producing neurons.
4. It is Anti-Inflammatory
According to research, neuroinflammation may be involved in Parkinson’s . Phycocyanin present in Spirulina is a therapeutic component that has anti-inflammatory action.
The inflammatory enzymes such as inducible nitric oxide synthase were inhibited by Spirulina thereby preventing damage to nerve cells .
In another study, it has been shown that Spirulina reduces cell toxicity and inhibits the expression of genes related to inflammation .
What does this Mean? This suggests that the anti-inflammatory action of Spirulina is protective against Parkinson’s.
5. It Modulates Brain Function
The non‒protein components of Spirulina such as flavonoids, carotenoids exert their protective effects against oxidative damage to cells.
Studies have shown that polyphenolic compounds present in Spirulina recovers the function of brain cells by the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor .
This recovery of brain function can prove to be very beneficial in patients of Parkinson’s disease.
What does this Mean? The modulation of brain function by Spirulina can lay the foundation of neuroprotective therapy that is in pipeline for Parkinson’s disease.
6. It Provides Essential Nutrients
Studies have shown that some nutrients reduce the risk of Parkinson’s .
Intake of phytochemicals and antioxidants delays the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
A decrease in Parkinson’s disease risk has been found in individuals who consumed foods rich in carotenoids such as Spirulina.
Spirulina is also a source of omega‒3s. Omega‒3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have been found to be neuroprotective .
It is essential for the development of the brain and relieves the symptoms of depression in the patients.
Docosahexaenoic acid, a common omega‒3, protects nerve cells against cytotoxicity by inhibiting the death of dopamine-producing nerve cells.
What does this Mean? Incorporation of Spirulina in the diet can prevent the development of Parkinson’s disease as the active ingredients play a key role in inhibiting the progression of the disease.
7. It Prevents Memory Dysfunction
Spirulina has been known to prevent memory dysfunction by inhibiting the formation of a protein clump of Aβ protein that accumulates in the brain .
Feeding Spirulina in an animal model has been found to improve receptor function in the brain thereby preventing the loss of motor skills in patients .
Dietary supplementation of Spirulina ameliorates deterioration of memory and reduces oxidative stress in brain cells .
What does this Mean? By preventing the loss of brain cells Spirulina also prevents cognitive dysfunction that is malfunctioning of the brain and hence affecting memory.
The recommended dose of Spirulina is 5g/d. However, the healthcare professional must be consulted for the consumption of the optimum amount.
The consumption of Spirulina is considered safe so far. It is known to cause some stomach disorders like constipation.
The pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should take advice from their doctor regarding the intake of Spirulina.
Patients suffering from phenylketonuria, autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis must avoid the consumption of Spirulina.
Spirulina is a functional food that can be regarded as a therapeutic agent to cure Parkinson’s disease.
It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is neuroprotective and can modulate brain function.
Its therapeutic properties can lay the foundation for neuroprotective therapy for Parkinson’s which is still in the pipeline.
The active ingredients of Spirulina, especially omega‒3s and phycocyanin, have great therapeutic potential as good nutrition also plays a great role in lowering the risk of Parkinson’s disease.