Harvard scientists found that high levels of urate in the blood means a decreased chance of developing the disease.

In a large-scale, prospective study exploring the link between levels of urate in the blood and risk of Parkinson’s disease, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) observed that high levels of urate are strongly associated with a reduced risk of the disease.

The researchers used the HSPH-based Health Professionals Follow-up Study, a population of male health professionals established in 1986, as the source for their data. The study cohort included more than 18,000 men without Parkinson’s disease who had provided blood samples between 1993 and 1995 and whose subsequent health status was followed.

The researchers found that men in the top quartile of blood urate concentration had 55% lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease than men in the bottom quartile. This difference was not explained by differences in age or other risk factors for Parkinson’s disease. 

The authors hypothesize that urate’s antioxidant properties may help dampen the effects of oxidative stress, which appears to contribute to the progressive loss of the dopamine-producing brain cells that occurs in individuals with Parkinson’s disease. To follow-up on this clue, the team accessed the databases of two large, randomized studies conducted among patients with early Parkinson’s disease. The preliminary results showed a slower progression of the disease among individuals with high blood urate.

The study was published online on June 20 in The American Journal of Epidemiology and will appear in an upcoming print issue.

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