Although, both very uniquely different disease both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease effect the neural pathways and processes of the brain. Additionally, both are incredibly concerning diseases that appear to be increasing in today’s ageing populations.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
It’s estimated that 1/500 people have Parkinson’s disease, approximately 127,000 people in the whole of the UK suffer from its effects. The exact cause is unknown but it is thought to be linked to the death of nerve cells. The nerves cells that it effects are the ones that produce Dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that communicates to areas of the brain that control movement. When these cells slowly begin to die they cease production of Dopamine, this worsens the symptoms. Also, studies have shown Serotonin may also be reduced in Parkinson's patients. Serotonin is responsible for control of movement [1,2].
Studies have indicated that it may be a combination of genetic and environmental factors that lead to the onset of Parkinson’s disease. Genetic Loci DJ-1 has been linked to the inheritable form of Parkinson’s disease. As for environmental factors, it is thought that pesticides and herbicides used in agriculture may lead to the development of the disease .
Parkinson’s is a progressive and degenerative neurological disease. The disease is recognised by its symptoms.
- Involuntary movements (tremors and shaking)
- Slow movements
- Stiffness of the muscle, inflexibility
These symptoms occur when 70% of the brain’s cells are lost. Parkinson’s disease also had other symptoms that are not always guaranteed. These include:
- Loss of senses
- Balance problems/dizziness
- Poor Memory
- Dysphagia, problems swallowing
- Problems with urination and constipation .
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s is incredibly common, it is easy to think that it’s a natural part of ageing, but it is not. It's thought that over 850,000 people in the UK have the disease . Once again, the cause is unknown but we are making leaps and bounds into finding the root of the problem. The brain supposedly undergoes atrophy (loss of mass), however scientists have also found abnormal neurofibrillary tangles, and amyloid plaques in those that have Alzheimer’s. In addition, peculiar levels of acetylcholine (ach) have been found in the brains of sufferers. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that prevents the conductivity of message within the nerves and brain.
Although Alzheimer’s is not a normal feature of ageing you are at an increased risk of developing it as you age. There has also been distressing evidence to show a genetic inheritance of the disease. Finally, head injuries also increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's at an earlier age.
There are different stages to the development of Alzheimer's, first there is the Early stage Alzheimer’s. This is characterized by only a few problems with the memory particularly short term memory. Reading something and unable to remember it only moments later. Also, they may suffer from mild confusion, such as difficulty planning, or getting the right word. Next, Moderate stage Alzheimer’s. This stage can last a very long time. It is characterized by angry outbursts and flippant emotion. At this point they suffer from many other symptoms such as personality changes and differences in sleeping patterns. Also, memory is deeply affected, they will struggle to know what day it is, their name, address or events in their past. Finally, Severe or late stage Alzheimer’s. This is the final and most dangerous stage of the disease. It requires full time assistance as the person loses all awareness of time, people and dangers. They have little to no memory or communication abilities .
Symptoms of the disease are becoming more recognisable, they include:
- Poor judgement of situations
- Mood, emotion and personality changes
- Obsessive and repetitive behaviour.
- Insomnia or interrupted sleeping
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Loss of speech
- Disregard for personal care.
How Does Green Tea help?
Green tea is a simple home brewed beverage extracted from the Camellia Sinensis. Yet it has promising advances in the field of neurological health. One study found that Green Tea consumption is linked with a 54% decrease in cognitive decline.
The active EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) has been linked with neural protection. Due to its potent ability to cross the blood brain barrier in mammals we are now able to see how Green Tea can be effective in protecting the brain . One study looked at the effect of Green tea on Alzheimers and found that amyloid plaques require iron, copper or zinc to be able to form. It was found that the presence of EGCG prevented these minerals from binding, thus disallowing the amyloid plaques to form . Green tea is very rich in antioxidants that protect our bodies against free radicals and oxidation. Free radicals are reactive compounds that can be found in drugs, alcohol, pesticides etc. Furthermore, a 2008 study found that memory was vitally improved by daily intake of Green Tea. The assessment was undertaken by conducting a mini-mental state exam (MMSE). Participants were also asked to record any consumption of Green Tea. They found that those who drank more Green Tea had a higher MMSE scores .
On the other hand, the risk of Parkinson’s disease was also reduced by increasing consumption of Green Tea or its extract. A meta-analysis of over 1,418 studies found that Green Tea was linked with a decreased risk of Parkinson’s disease. However, once the onset of Green Tea has begun it cannot be prevented by Green Tea. Consumption of Green Tea or its extract is something that should be undertaken before the onset of disease .
- Parkinson's UK. (2016). What Causes Parkinson's . Available: https://www.parkinsons.org.uk/content/what-causes-parkinsons.
- Fox.S, Chuang.R, Brotchie.J. (2009). Serotonin and Parkinson's disease: On movement, mood, and madnes. Movement Disorders. 24 (9), Pg. 1255-1266.
- NHS. (2016). Parkinson's Disease- Symptoms. Available: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Parkinsons-disease/Pages/Symptoms.aspx.
- NHS. (2016). Alzheimer's Disease. Available: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Alzheimers-disease/Pages/Introduction.aspx.
- Alzheimer's Association. (2016). Stages of Alzheimer's . Available: http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_stages_of_alzheimers.asp.
- Kuriyama S, Hozawa A, Ohmori K, Shimazu T, Matsui T, Ebihara S, Awata S, Nagatomi R, Arai H, Tsuji I. Green tea consumption and cognitive function: a cross-sectional study from the Tsurugaya Project 1. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Feb;83(2):355-61.
- Downey, M. (2014). How Green Tea Protects Against Alzheimer’s Disease. Available: http://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2014/8/How-Green-Tea-Protects-Against-Alzheimers-Disease/Page-01.
- Hyung SJ, DeToma AS, Brender JR, et al. Insights into antiamyloidogenic properties of the green tea extract (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate toward metal-associated amyloid-beta species. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2013 Mar 5; 110(10):3743-8.
- Li FJ, Ji HF, Shen L. A meta-analysis of tea drinking and risk of Parkinson's disease. TheScientificWorldJournal 2012;2012:923464.