A Movement Disorders Society Research Team looks to treat Parkinson’s Disease through a practice that lasts less than 2 minutes a day.
The motor disease claims over 2 million victims with symptoms like shaking hands, a shuffling walk or soft speech. However, after this simple fix given by the Movement Disorders Society research team, study participants with Parkinson’s improved their balance and gait.
The research project, which launched in 2013 and involved a collaboration between the Department of Neurology and the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, relies on a double-blind placebo experiment, in which participants drank either 1000 mL (4 cups) of hydrogen-rich water or placebo water.
“We’re trying to do something different in the area of Parkinson’s work and hydrogen water research,” said Doctor Yoritaka, the project’s principal investigator. “We know hydrogen water helps with neuronal damage, but we’re trying to find if H2 could modify the progression of PD.”
Yoritaka explained that Parkinson’s patients are affected by a deficiency of dopamine, a compound that functions as a critical transmitter of neurological information.
“Without dopamine being created or accepted in our bodies – the neurological messages sent from the brain to the body just don’t work,” says Dr. Jeffrey Beuer, who is a phD in Parkinson’s research but not associated with the study. Doctor’s can prescribe medication, but we know hydrogen water supplementation can increase the body’s ability to use dopamine correctly.
The study involved a 48 week protocol of drinking hydrogen water or placebo water. Participants drank 4 cups per day of either .8 ppm hydrogen water or 0 ppm hydrogen water. Their disease activity was assessed at 5 different periods; at baseline, at week 8, week 24 and week 48. Researchers assessed results (disease activity) with the total unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale, a universally accepted and objective measure of Parkinson’s severity – measuring symptoms like gait, balance, blood pressure, heart rate, mental health and 27 other symptoms of Parkinson’s.
The study reveals that compared with users of placebo water, patients who drank hydrogen water had an improvement of 5 points total on their UDDRS scale. This is similar to results of majority prescribed Parkinson’s medications like non-ergot dopamine agonists, bromocriptide, peryolgide or even cabergoline.
They are unable to explain the precise mechanisms behind their findings but they speculate that H2’s scavenging of free radicals might protect the brain from Parkinson’s. These are molecules that otherwise cause neurotoxic damage. Moreover, free radicals have been linked to dopaminergic loss, the disease mechanism behind Parkinson’s.
Parkinson’s patients on H2, did improve UPDRS scores, with less dopaminergic loss and oxidative stress. But is H2’s scavenging of ROS alone what stopped dopaminergic loss and improved Parkinson’s? It’s difficult to say.
In a previous study, Fujita and team found that animals with Parkinson’s experienced a reduction in oxidative stress and neuronal cell loss after drinking hydrogen water. “It is possible”, they say, “that H2 improves Parkinson’s by preventing dopaminergic loss via eliminating oxidative stress.”
Still, the team says that further studies are needed to investigate this possible mechanism. “If we understand the exact mechanisms behind the protection,” says Tzoulis, who was not associated with the research, “then we have a chance to develop a new treatment, a step towards the Parkinson’s riddle.”
A ‘step toward solving the Parkinson’s riddle.’
The researchers cite a number of limitations to their study. For instance, the team did not change the concentration of hydrogen each patient was using, so they are unable to determine a dose-response relationship.
Also, the researchers noted that patients were medicated with L-dopa and de novo. It is difficult to say if the results stem from some sort of emergent property form mixing hydrogen with meds (is hydrogen enhancing the meds); or a clinical effect of the hydrogen alone.
Because the study only included 9 Parkinson’s patients, the findings cannot be generalized to the population as a whole.
That said, the team believes that the study could lead to new prevention and treatment strategies for Parkinson’s disease, a condition that is diagnosed in around 60,000 people in the U.S. every year.
Yoritaka, A., Takanashi, M., Hirayama, M., Nakahara, T., Ohta, S., & Hattori, N. (2013). Pilot study of H2 therapy in Parkinson’s disease: A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Movement Disorders, 28(6), 836-839. doi: 10.1002/mds.25375