A study done in 2011 by Harvard has offered some evidence that ibuprofen may reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease later in life. The study implies that there is a 38% lower chance of developing Parkinson’s disease among ibuprofen users.
This observed effect is specific to ibuprofen. Other medications – even non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin – don’t have the same effects. Paracetamol (acetaminophen) is also singled out as definitely not having this effect. NSAIDs and paracetamol have a variety of uses, but this one seems to be special.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease. This means that it is a condition that affects the brain and nervous system, and it grows worse over time. Other neurodegenerative diseases include multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s disease, Down’s syndrome, and the AIDS-dementia complex.
All of these diseases have a well-known inflammation (or swelling) component to their progression. Experts initially believe that this may be how ibuprofen helps prevent the condition as the drug is often prescribed to reduce inflammation.
The study was conducted at Harvard and published in the journal Neurology. In a test group of 291 people followed over 6 years, regular ibuprofen users were 38% less likely to develop Parkinson’s. This is compared to others who weren’t using this specific medication.
Researchers are optimistic but cautious. It’s an early phase of research, and they are asking people not to get their hopes up. They haven’t yet determined if it is in fact the ibuprofen reducing the risk of Parkinson’s, or some other factor.
NSAIDs as a group are still being studied for their secondary benefits. In general they are used as a pain, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fever medicine. Ongoing research is looking into their uses as a preventative measure against many kinds of cancer and heart disease. Experts are still not certain which of these effects are true, so ibuprofen isn’t actively prescribed for any preventative care.
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