Can artificial sweetener treat Parkinson’s?

Tel Aviv University researchers say mannitol could prevent aggregation of toxic proteins in the brain.

Next time you chew a piece of gum, it won’t be just for better breath but rather you could be protecting yourself from Parkinson’s Disease. Tel Aviv University researchers have found that the artificial sweetener mannitol prevents clumps of the protein α-synuclein from forming in the brain — a characteristic of Parkinson’s disease.

The mannitol sweetener — a sugar alcohol produced by fungi, bacteria, and algae that is a common component of sugar-free gum and candy — is used in the medical field and is approved by the FDA as a diuretic to flush out excess fluids and used during surgery as a substance that opens the blood/brain barrier to ease the passage of other drugs.

Profs. Ehud Gazit and Daniel Segal of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology and the Sagol School of Neuroscience, along with their colleague Dr. Ronit Shaltiel-Karyo and PhD candidate Moran Frenkel-Pinter, have found that mannitol could be a novel therapy for the treatment of Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

The results were published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

The researchers now plan to re-examine the structure of the mannitol compound and introduce modifications to optimize its effectiveness.

Although the results look promising, it is still not advisable for Parkinson’s patients to begin ingesting mannitol in large quantities, Prof. Segal cautions. More testing must be done to determine dosages that would be both effective and safe.

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About Viva Sarah Press

Viva Sarah Press is an associate editor and writer at ISRAEL21c. She has extensive experience in reporting/editing in the print, online and broadcast fields. Her work has been published by international media outlets including Israel Television, CNN, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post and Time Out.