A common food supplement called coenzyme Q-10 can significantly delay the progression of Parkinson's disease, slowing the degeneration of brain cells, researchers are reporting.
A nationwide trial in 80 patients found that the supplement can reduce progression of the debilitating disorder by as much as 44 percent, prolonging the period in which patients can carry out such everyday functions as feeding, dressing, bathing and walking.
But authors of the study, led by a team from the University of California, San Diego, and other experts cautioned patients against taking the supplement on their own until its value can be proven in a larger study.
"It's very interesting, and they may be on to something, but they need a larger study," said Dr. Abraham Lieberman of the National Parkinson Foundation.
That larger study should begin as soon as possible, said Dr. Bernard Ravina of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, which funded the current study. Scientists should follow up on it "pretty aggressively," he said.
Parkinson's, which strikes as many as 100,000 Americans each year, is characterized by severe tremors and rigidity in the limbs and loss of muscle control. Although its primary cause is unknown, the disorder results from the death of brain cells that produce dopamine, which plays a key role in transmitting commands from the brain's muscle-control centers.
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