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Hall found that the bar helped decrease the severity of GI symptoms for patients with more advanced Parkinson's disease and could be an effective strategy to help treat it. Credit: Neuroscience News

Prebiotic Bars: A Potential Aid in Early Parkinson’s Management

Summary: A study explores the link between bowel health and Parkinson’s disease. It suggests that constipation, a common symptom often appearing 10 years before a Parkinson’s diagnosis, may result from an abnormal microbiome in the bowel.

A prebiotic bar was introduced into the diet of Parkinson’s patients, which helped decrease the severity of their gastrointestinal symptoms. The research could pave the way for early intervention and improved management of the disease.

Key Facts:

  1. Constipation could be an early symptom of Parkinson’s disease, appearing up to 10 years prior to diagnosis.
  2. The study introduces prebiotic bars into patients’ diets, aiming to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms of Parkinson’s by encouraging the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
  3. The prebiotic bars appeared to ease bowel symptoms in patients, indicating potential for further investigation into dietary interventions in Parkinson’s treatment.

Source: Rush University

Constipation can be caused by many factors, not all of them serious. But it could be a sign of Parkinson’s disease. A new study from RUSH neurologist Deborah Hall, MD, looks into how the bowel and the brain are linked.

Hall says constipation can be one of the very first symptoms for the disease, showing up as early as 10 years before a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.

“The microbiome, or bacteria composition in the bowel, is abnormal in Parkinson’s disease. We’re trying to understand if the same microbiome abnormalities are happening even earlier, before diagnosis. If you can diagnose that early, there may be an earlier time where you can intervene in the disease.”

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, looks at how introducing a prebiotic bar into a patient’s diet would impact Parkinson’s disease’s symptoms. The research involved both patients who were newly diagnosed and not yet medicated and those who were more advanced in the disease and actively receiving treatment.

Hall found that the bar helped decrease the severity of GI symptoms for patients with more advanced Parkinson’s disease and could be an effective strategy to help treat it.

How prebiotics help

Constipation can be caused by a leaky bowel, which is one of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Having a leaky bowel happens because bad bacteria from the disease ends up damaging the intestine’s lining. To help reduce inflammation and address the leaky gut, more good bacteria need to be introduced. That’s where prebiotics come in.

Prebiotics help good bacteria grow in the gut. They have elements called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which serve as a food source for the good bacteria. If a patient ingests a prebiotic compound, the good bacteria will eat it and will multiply. With more good bacteria introduced to the bowel, inflammation can be reduced, and it can help normalize the leaky bowel.

Right now, there’s nothing on the market that has a similar SCFA makeup that Hall thinks would change the gut microbiome, so a prebiotic snack bar was a good place to start.

“It’s not a medicine, it’s not a surgical intervention, it’s easy,” Hall says.

The prebiotic bar showed signs of easing patients’ bowel symptoms, but more work needs to be done to see whether a patient’s motor symptoms improve with the bar. To do that, Hall says they’re looking to do another clinical trial that would include more patients and would last longer than the initial study’s 10 days.

Hall also wants to investigate other ways to implement the prebiotic into a patient’s diet. Patients in the study reported feeling full and eating less food while implementing the bar into their diets. In a follow-up study, Hall says they might consider creating some sort of supplement instead.

Overall, Hall says the results from the study are promising and will open many doors for more research that can help more Parkinson’s disease patients have a higher quality of life.

About this Parkinson’s disease research news

Author: Ariana Baldassano
Source: Rush University
Contact: Ariana Baldassano – Rush University
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Open access.
An open label, non-randomized study assessing a prebiotic fiber intervention in a small cohort of Parkinson’s disease participants” by Deborah Hall et al. Nature Communications


An open label, non-randomized study assessing a prebiotic fiber intervention in a small cohort of Parkinson’s disease participants

A pro-inflammatory intestinal microbiome is characteristic of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Prebiotic fibers change the microbiome and this study sought to understand the utility of prebiotic fibers for use in PD patients.

The first experiments demonstrate that fermentation of PD patient stool with prebiotic fibers increased the production of beneficial metabolites (short chain fatty acids, SCFA) and changed the microbiota demonstrating the capacity of PD microbiota to respond favorably to prebiotics.

Subsequently, an open-label, non-randomized study was conducted in newly diagnosed, non-medicated (n = 10) and treated PD participants (n = 10) wherein the impact of 10 days of prebiotic intervention was evaluated.

Outcomes demonstrate that the prebiotic intervention was well tolerated (primary outcome) and safe (secondary outcome) in PD participants and was associated with beneficial biological changes in the microbiota, SCFA, inflammation, and neurofilament light chain. Exploratory analyses indicate effects on clinically relevant outcomes.

This proof-of-concept study offers the scientific rationale for placebo-controlled trials using prebiotic fibers in PD patients. Identifier: NCT04512599.

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