Chocolate over-consumption may be linked to Parkinson’s Disease – review

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

A standard chocolate tablet (100g) contains enough β-PEA to cause Parkinson's symptoms in mice, say researchers
A standard chocolate tablet (100g) contains enough β-PEA to cause Parkinson's symptoms in mice, say researchers

Related tags Antioxidant

Indian researchers have urged consumers to limit the chocolate they eat because it is the food richest in a component linked to Parkinson’s Disease.

The review​ published in the Neuroscience Bulletin​ by Borah et al.​ at the Assam University in India said that β-phenethylamine (β-PEA), a naturally occurring component found in cocoa beans and its by products, may be a cause of Parkinson’s Disease.

As consumption of some β-PEA-enriched food items has become an addiction in modern life, our proposed mechanism is of enormous significance and impact,” ​said the researchers.

They added: "Limited consumption of these foods is recommended.”

However, their findings are based mainly on rodent studies and they acknowledge the effect on humans needs further investigation.

Levels in chocolate

The research said that a person eating 100g of chocolate per day, the standard size for most chocolate tablets, would have a β-PEA intake of between 0.36-0.83 mg/day depending on the type of chocolate.

An earlier study​ by Sengupta et al.​found that β-PEA at doses of 0.63 and 1.25 mg/day could cause Parkinson’s symptoms in adult mice.

“These results suggest that the amount of chocolate that a person takes normally might be toxic to dopaminergic neurons,” said​ Borah et al​. in their review.

Polyphenols may negate effects

However, they added that various antioxidants such as polyphenols could negate the effects as many studies have said polyphenols like cathechins may be protective against Parkinson’s Disease.

β-phenethylamine is a naturally-occurring plant derived biogenic anime that is also found in wine and cheese. But the highest trace amounts have been reported in chocolate.

Borah et al.​ said Parkinson’s Disease was not yet fully understood, but excessive production of reactive oxygen species and the resulting mitochondrial complex-l dysfunction were widely regarded as the underlying cause.

They said β-PEA could lead to the production of hydroxyl radical (.OH) and the generation of oxidative stress in dopaminergic areas of the brain, possibly leading to Parkison’s Disease. However, more research on the human effect is needed.

PD sufferers eat more chocolate

Scientists had previously pondered whether chocolate had beneficial effects for Parkinson’s sufferers, who tend to consume more than the general population.

In May last year, we reported on a study​ that said there was no evidence that chocolate improved motor function in Parkinson’s Disease sufferers and concluded the reason for increased chocolate consumption was “largely enigmatic”.

Neurosci Bull, ​March, 2013.
DOI: 10.1007/s12264-013-1330-2 1 
‘Contribution of β-phenethylamine, a component of chocolate and wine, to dopaminergic neurodegeneration: implications for the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease’
Authors: Anupom Borah, Rajib Paul, Muhammed Khairujjaman Mazumder, Nivedita Bhattacharjee

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