Vicia Faba is an interesting source of natural L-dopa. Structural parts of the plant give up to 20 fold higher levels of natural L-dopa than the beans. Studies show that the use of Vicia Faba improves the bioavailability of the L-dopa. Significant improvements in Parkinson’s disease symptoms could be observed with the intake of Vicia Faba.
Why do we need L-dopa and dopamine?
L-dopa is the main precursor of dopamine, also called “the molecule of happiness”. Dopamine plays indeed a key role in a positive mood and is strongly related to memorization and learning processes. Increasing scientific research has shown, that dopamine is also implicated in the reward processes. Lack of dopamine favor stress, depression, burn-out, or just a bad mood. Chronic fatigue syndrome and lack of libido can also be related to a lack of dopamine.
In addition, L-dopa and dopamine play also a key role in many motor functions. A lack of L-dopa and dopamine are likely to result in slow movements (bradykinesia), tremors, stiffness, small steps, curbed attitude, imbalance, and falls, but also fine motor problems. Facial expression can also be limited and lead to the interpretation that the concerned people are sad and unlucky.
In summary, a good L-dopa and dopamine management of the body will lead to positive cognitive and motor functions and a lack of L-dopa and dopamine will favor the opposite and even favor the appearance of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.
The crucial challenge of bioavailability of L-dopa?
It is important to understand, that the body needs the L-dopa in the brain, especially in the part of the dopaminergic neurons. In order to reach this zone in the brain, the L-dopa has to cross a protective barrier of the brain called the brain-blood-barrier. This barrier is like a filter that has the function to protect the brain from toxic agents and pathogens that could damage the brain.
L-dopa is a small molecule that is able to cross this protective filter of the brain, but, dopamine is too big and is unable to cross this barrier. The challenge for the organism is to maintain the L-dopa as long as possible in its form to remain able to cross the brain barrier and to be used in the brain to produce dopamine.
If the L-dopa is transformed too quickly in the blood vessels into dopamine, it becomes useless for brain processing functions.
Vicia Faba plant and food supplements made out of Vicia Faba naturally contain molecules such as polyphenols, that help to slow down this transformation process of L-dopa into dopamine and to maintain the bioavailability for longer time periods.
This is crucial, especially in people with Parkinson’s that have many of their dopaminergic neurons destroyed and consequently need higher amounts of L-dopa in the brain to produce sufficient amounts of dopamine necessary for all these basic essential cognitive and motor functions.
Vicia Faba is an excellent source of natural L-dopa
A study, published in Clinical Neuropharmacology with seven Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients and nine healthy controls showed that the ingestion of Vicia Faba allowed observing increased L-dopa plasma levels in both populations, and a substantial clinical improvement was observed in the Parkinson’s disease patients according to the Webster scale. The conclusion of the study is, that Vicia Faba is a useful tool in the treatment of PD patients.
The problem related to this natural approach in Parkinson’s disease management through Vicia Faba might be the dosage of the L-dopa. Even if the improvement of the bioavailability is a significant point, normalized Vicia Faba products with a measurable L-dopa content could combine both the natural approach with the possibility to administrate standardized dosage to those that need a precise approach.
What perspectives on Parkinson’s disease?
It is well known that Parkinson’s disease patients suffer from wearing-off phenomena. Standard treatments get indeed less effective over time and lead regularly to problems such as “freezing”. Vicia Faba could indeed contribute to a better metabolization and bioavailability of its natural L-dopa in Parkinson’s disease patients at all stages, but especially when the therapeutic effects of the standard treatments gradually lose their strengths.
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Disclaimer: This blog is strictly a news and information blog about Parkinson’s. It is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content on this blog is NOT intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We invite readers of this blog to seek the advice of your medical doctor or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
Study: Vered, Y.; Rabey, J. M.*; Palevitch, D.†; Grosskopf, I.‡; Harsat, A.; Yanowski, A.; Shabtai, H.*; Graff, E. Bioavailability of Levodopa after Consumption of Vicia faba Seedlings by Parkinsonian Patients and Control Subjects, Clinical Neuropharmacology: April 1994 – Volume 17 – Issue 2 – p 138-146