It has been discovered that men who suffer from constipation are more likelyto get diagnosed with the progressive brain disease Parkinson’s. Scientistsdon’t know why this is the case, although some have suggested that thedisease may have some effect on the function of the gut long before itmanifests itself elsewhere. It is also possible that constipation could be asign that men are living in an environment which could place them at riskfor Parkinson’s. The research project, part of the Honolulu Heart Program,studied 6,790 men between 51 and 75 years old for 24 years.

Once people have Parkinson’s, gut problems are a known complication. Dr.Robert Abbott, who led the research, says, “It could help us moreeffectively identify people with early or suspected disease or people athigh risk of developing the disease in the future.”

Constipation was defined as having less than one bowel movement a day, andapproximately 5% of the population are thought to be affected to thisdegree.Men who were constipated were 2.7 times more likely to develop Parkinson’sas men who had an average of one bowel movement per day. As bowel movementfrequency went up, the risk of Parkinson’s fell away.

The researchers took into account differences between the men in terms ofage, coffee drinking, smoking, laxative use and intake of fruit, vegetablesand grains. Dr. Abbott says, “Adjustments for those factors made no changein the results – the strong tie between bowel movement frequency and therisk of Parkinson’s disease remained.”However, the fact that relatively few people develop Parkinson’s means thatmost people with constipation will never get it.

Abbott warns, “However, if people have constipation that does not respond touse of laxatives along with other factors, such as a family history of thedisease or other motor problems, then they may be at higher risk ofdeveloping the disease.”

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