Urate is formed when other chemicals, called purines, are broken down in the body. Purines are found in food, and some purines are the building blocks of DNA. Studies have suggested that urate may play a protective role with brain cells. A new study published online in Neurology has now revealed that men who have high levels of urate, also known as uric acid, in their blood may be less likely to develop Parkinson's disease.
Study author Xiang Gao, of Pennsylvania State University in University Park and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, said, "These results suggest that urate could protect against Parkinson's or slow the progression of the disease in its very early stages before symptoms are seen. The findings support more research on whether raising the level of urate in people with early Parkinson's may slow the disease down."
Gao further added, "The idea is exciting, as urate levels can be raised easily and inexpensively, but it must also be done cautiously, as excessively high levels of urate can cause kidney stones and gout."
The men with the lowest level of urate had levels of less than 4.9 milligrams per deciliter. Those with the highest levels had 6.3 to 9.0 mg/dL. Normal levels can range from 3.5 to 7.2 mg/dL. The men who had the highest levels of urate were nearly 40% less likely to develop Parkinson's disease than those with the lowest levels. Among the men with Parkinson's disease, 45 men had the highest level of urate and 58 men had the lowest level of urate. Among the healthy men, 111 were in the group with the highest level of urate; 107 were in the group with the lowest level. The researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect Parkinson's disease risk, such as age, smoking and caffeine use. There was no relationship between the level of urate in women and whether they developed Parkinson's disease.
Gao noted that the study does not prove that high levels of urate protect against Parkinson's disease; it only shows an association consistent with a lower risk effect. He also notes more studies are needed to understand the sex differences in the relationship between urate and Parkinson's disease.
The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.