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Altered Diet May Prevent or Delay Parkinson Disease


April 25, 2018

New research suggests that the fish protein β-parvalbumin may have a protective effect against Parkinson disease (PD), encouraging a diet with higher fish consumption.

A number of neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer disease (AD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Huntington disease, are characterized by the self-assembly of native proteins into amyloid fibers. In PD (the second most common neurodegenerative disorder behind AD) conformational changes in the intrinsically unstructured αS protein cause it to assemble into amyloid fibers that are toxic and can be transmitted from cell to cell.

The most common allergen in fish and found in many fish species is the highly-abundant protein β-parvalbumin, which forms amyloid structures as a way to avoid gastrointestinal degradation and transit to the blood.

In vitro studies led by Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, PhD, professor and head of the chemical biology division at Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden), showed that β-parvalbumin found in Atlantic cod effectively prevents the human protein α-synuclein (αS) from aggregating into the toxic amyloid fibrils in the brain that are characteristic of PD. Fish β-parvalbumin amyloids that form in the human gut effectively scavenge and bind the human αS proteins, which inhibits subsequent αS amyloid formation.

Authors write in their published paper that these findings are particularly interesting, as previous research has speculated that PD may originate in the gut (Scientific Reports. 2018;8:5465. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-23850-0).

The authors concluded that, while the findings will need to be confirmed through multiple in vivo studies, “we speculate that eating [parvalbumin]-rich fish is a dietary recommendation that may prevent or delay PD.”

The Chalmers University of Technology is keen to study whether their findings could have implications for neurodegenerative disorders as well.

—Amanda Del Signore


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