Fighting Parkinson's disease with yogurt?

No joke! Cell biologists at the Max Planck Institute in Dresden, Germany have made a startling discovery: One type of yogurt known as "left-turning" contains an active ingredient that could cure Parkinson's disease and even provide a preventive effect.

Two yogurt cups with spoons

What happens in Parkinson's?

In Parkinson's disease, nerve cells in a special region of the brain block the work of their mitochondria. When these power plants die, the cells die and no longer produce dopamine. This, in turn, critically influences the controlling processes in movement. The Dresden researchers have now identified two substances that stop the destruction of the nerve cells and can even act as prevention. These are D-lactate and glycolate, a lactic acid and a fruit acid. The former occurs mainly in Turkish and Bulgarian yogurts, whereas the latter can be found in such foods as grapes, sugar cane and rosemary. In laboratory experiments, the scientists succeeded in regenerating diseased human nerve cells by using these substances, which occur naturally in foods.

How exactly the two substances achieve the healing and preventive effect, we do not yet know. Therefore, the next step is to study molecular mechanisms in detail. The head of research of the Dresden team has further plans: He can imagine bringing a yogurt on the market, which is enriched with D-lactate and can serve as a preventive measure against Parkinson's.

What is the difference between left- and right-turning yogurt?

The unique aspect of Bulgarian, "left-turning" yogurt (D-lactate) is that it is not strained and comes with a lot of added bacteria. This makes the yogurt very sour, but rich in D-lactate. The sour Bulgarian yogurt is referred to as D(-) by experts. Typical mild yogurts contain "right-turning" lactic acid, which is referred to as L(+). The type of bacterial culture used determines the proportion of right-turning or left-turning lactic acid. Even decades ago, researchers wrote that sour yogurt had special attributes, since the farmers in Bulgaria lived to particularly advanced age. It will therefore be interesting to see when the first yogurt for Parkinson's will appear on grocery shelves. Yet those who suffer already from Parkinson's or have a family history of it do not have to wait for it. Left-turning Bulgarian yogurt is already available today.

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