Eating more fish ‘could prevent Parkinson’s’

Parvalbumin, a protein found in great quantities in several different fish species, prevents the formation of protein structures closely associated with Parkinson’s disease, according to new research by Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden.

One of the hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease is amyloid formation of a particular human protein, called alpha-synuclein, and sometimes referred to as the ‘Parkinson’s protein’.

The researchers have discovered that arvalbumin can form amyloid structures that bind together with the alpha-synuclein protein. Parvalbumin effectively ‘scavenges’ the alpha-synuclein proteins, using them for its own purposes, preventing them from forming their own potentially harmful amyloids later on.

Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, the study’s lead author, said: ’Parvalbumin collects up the ‘Parkinson’s protein’ and actually prevents it from aggregating, simply by aggregating itself first.’

As parvalbumin protein is abundant in certain fish species, increasing the amount of fish in our diet might be a simple way to fight off Parkinson’s disease. Herring, cod, carp, and redfish, including sockeye salmon and red snapper, have particularly high levels of parvalbumin, but it is common in many other fish species too. The levels of parvalbumin can also vary greatly throughout the year.

Nathalie Scheers, a researcher involved with the study, said: ‘Fish is normally a lot more nutritious at the end of the summer, because of increased metabolic activity. Levels of parvalbumin are much higher in fish after they have had a lot of sun, so it could be worthwhile increasing consumption during autumn.’

Other neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, ALS and Huntington’s disease, are also caused by certain amyloid structures interfering in the brain. The team is therefore keen to research this topic further, to see if the discovery relating to Parkinson’s disease could have implications for other neurodegenerative disorders as well.