A new study from Sweden suggests the link between consumption of fish and better long-term neurological health could involve the protein Parvalbumin.
The protein, found in great quantities in several different fish species, has been shown to help prevent the formation of certain protein structures closely associated with Parkinson’s disease.
One of the hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease is amyloid formation of alpha-synuclein. The team at Chalmers University of Technology have discovered that parvalbumin can form amyloid structures that bind together with the alpha-synuclein protein. It effectively ‘scavenges’ the alpha-synuclein proteins, using them for its own purposes, thus preventing them from forming their own potentially harmful amyloids later on.
“Parvalbumin collects up the ‘Parkinson’s protein’ and actually prevents it from aggregating, simply by aggregating itself first,” explains Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, Professor and Head of the Chemical Biology division at Chalmers, and lead author on the study published in Nature.
With the parvalbumin protein so highly abundant in certain fish species, increasing the amount of fish in our diet might be a simple way to fight off Parkinson’s disease. Herring, cod, carp, and redfish, including sockeye salmon and red snapper, have particularly high levels of parvalbumin, but it is common in many other fish species too. The levels of parvalbumin can also vary greatly throughout the year.
“Fish is normally a lot more nutritious at the end of the summer, because of increased metabolic activity. Levels of parvalbumin are much higher in fish after they have had a lot of sun, so it could be worthwhile increasing consumption during autumn,” says Nathalie Scheers, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering, and researcher on the study.
Other neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, ALS and Huntington’s disease, are also caused by certain amyloid structures interfering in the brain. The team plans research this topic further, to see if the discovery relating to Parkinson’s disease could have implications for other neurodegenerative disorders as well.