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Ibuprofen May Lower Risk of Parkinson's Disease

Study Shows About a One-Third Reduction in Parkinson’s Risk for Regular Ibuprofen Users

Caution Urged in Ibuprofen Use continued...

“I thought their study, scientifically, was very sound. And the methodology was very good, strong, and I thought their conclusion was very reasonable,” says Bower, “so that’s not my issue.”

“Whenever in epidemiology you find an association, that does not mean causation. That’s where I’m being a little more conservative, a little more cautious,” he says.

“One explanation is the one we all want to believe, which is that ibuprofen may protect against Parkinson’s disease. That would be very exciting,” Bower says. “But unfortunately, there are other explanations that we might need to consider.”

How Ibuprofen Might Fight Parkinson’s

Other experts note, however, that a growing body of research supports the idea that ibuprofen may be uniquely protective of brain cells that produce the chemical dopamine.

Loss of those dopamine-producing neurons is thought to cause Parkinson’s, a disorder in which the brain gradually loses its ability to control the body’s movements.

People with Parkinson’s typically experience uncontrollable tremors or trembling in the jaw, face, arms or legs; stiffness; impaired coordination and balance; depression and other mood changes; skin problems; constipation; and trouble sleeping.

“The theory behind the inflammation and Parkinson’s goes back decades,” says Ali Samii, MD, associate professor of neurology at the University of Washington. “It’s biologically plausible. It’s not a very powerful protector, but it does reduce the risk.”

Samii published a study in 2009 finding that ibuprofen, but not other NSAIDs or aspirin, reduced the risk of Parkinson’s in regular users by about 25%.

“There are animal studies suggesting that the blood-barrier penetrations of NSAIDs are quite different from one another,” he says. “Ibuprofen itself may have some specific neuroprotective properties.”

In a test tube, for example, one study demonstrated that ibuprofen protected dopamine-producing nerve cells of rat brains from excessive stimulation, which can cause cell death.

For his part, Gao believes ibuprofen may work against Parkinson’s by activating a signaling pathway called the peroxisome, proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) pathway.

“That pathway is very important for Parkinson’s disease because the PPAR pathway kind of inhibits apoptosis,” or cell death, he says. “It also plays a role in oxidative stress [and] it’s important for anti-inflammatory actions.”

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