Could Parkinson’s disease be linked to exposure to heavy metals? New research indicates this may be true.
Many regions and specific foods and water supplies are being contaminated with heavy metals. When these build up in the blood and tissues, they can interfere with nerve transmission. Is there any evidence of a link with Parkinson’s?
Heavy metals and Parkinson’s
A study from India has linked significantly increased blood levels of heavy metals with Parkinson’s disease.
The researchers tested 150 Parkinson’s disease cases together with 170 healthy control subjects. The researchers conducted mass spectrometry with inductive coupling of the blood for these test subjects.
The research found that the Parkinson’s patients had significantly elevated levels of copper – almost 18 nanograms per milliliter of plasma compared to 13 ng/ml in the control patients. They also had elevated levels of iron – at 554 ng/ml versus 421 ng/ml in the control subjects.
The researchers also found the elevated iron levels associated with greater lipid peroxidation – the oxidation of fatty acids and lipoproteins that can produce artery and cell damage.
The researchers concluded:
“Increased plasma iron showed positive correlation with marker of lipid peroxidation, suggesting that increased iron levels induced oxidative stress in Parkinson’s disease. These results substantiated the earlier observations about the role of environmental exposure and metal-induced oxidative stress in the etiology of Parkinson’s disease.”
Other research has found Parkinson’s associated with heavy metals
Other research has found this association between iron and copper and Parkinson’s disease. A 2010 study from Slovakia tested the relationship between iron and copper and Parkinson’s and found that when iron and copper become oxidized they form Fenton reaction hydroxyl radicals, and this not only increases lipid peroxidation but also oxidizes DNA within the brain. They also produce advanced glycation end products, carbonyls, and malondiaildehyde (MDA).
These also increase tyrosine derivative levels – including dityrosine and 3-nitrotyrosine – among brain cells. Increased levels of dityrosine and 3-nitrotyrosine have been found among many Parkinson’s cases. These are associated with increased lewy bodies and alpha-synuclein proteins.
At the foundation of these processes is oxidative stress. This is when toxins such as heavy metals become radicalized. In this state they can damage blood vessels and cells they come into contact with.
Researchers at Rutgers University also found this oxidative stress association related to increased copper:
“alpha-synuclein is an amyloidogenic intrinsically disordered protein implicated in Parkinson’s disease, for which copper-mediated pathways of neurodegeneration have been suggested.”
Their study, using electrospray ionization mass spectrometry, went on to confirm that copper creates an interactivity with the damage of alpha-synuclein proteins – which are abundant within brain cells and nerve cells.
Alpha-synuclein is involved in information transmission between nerve cells. It interacts with phospholipids and neurotransmitters. When alpha-synuclein proteins become damaged, they bind to ubiquitin and form lewy bodies. The brain cell will often die as a result. During the process, the lewy bodies interfere with proper nerve cell firing – producing the classic signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, which include tremors and other motor control issues, stiffness and rigidity, impulse control, memory and mood issues along with anxiety in some.
How to detect heavy metals
Detecting increased heavy metal content within the body is sometimes difficult to determine through blood testing. This is because heavy metals can accumulate among cells. Therefore, while increased levels within the blood are a sure sign of excessive exposure, previous exposure accumulated within cells is more readily determined using hair analysis.
Furthermore, a hair analysis should be reviewed by a specialist who understands the test.
Anyone with a neurological disorder might consider having a hair analysis done.
Note that copper and iron are nutrients – as long as these minerals are combined with other trace and macro minerals within a healthy diet.
Devi YP, Naushad SM, Mridula R, Borgohain R, Vijay KK. Association of Parkinson’s disease with lead and transition metals among South Indian subjects. Indian J Biochem Biophys. 2014 Apr;51(2):121-6.
Jomova K, Vondrakova D, Lawson M, Valko M. Metals, oxidative stress and neurodegenerative disorders. Mol Cell Biochem. 2010 Dec;345(1-2):91-104. doi: 10.1007/s11010-010-0563-x.
Moriarty GM, Minetti CA, Remeta DP, Baum J. A revised picture of the Cu(II)-α-synuclein complex: the role of N-terminal acetylation. Biochemistry. 2014 May 6;53(17):2815-7. doi: 10.1021/bi5003025.
Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and diplomas in Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies.