Estrogen has been shown in recent years to be a possible protective factor in Alzheimer disease, and now new studies suggest it may also protect against the risk of Parkinson's disease. Preliminary data from four studies were presented today in New York at the 5th International Congress of Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders. In a preliminary study, Demetrius M. Maraganore and fellow researchers at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, found postmenopausal women on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) were less likely to have Parkinson's disease than those who were not on the therapy, suggesting estrogen may help protect against development of the disease.

In related studies: Researchers the University of Utah School of Medicine found that postmenopausal women with Parkinson's disease who had taken HRT scored 16 percent higher on long-term verbal memory tests than those who had not had HRT; National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers found that the estrogen may increase absorption of the Parkinson's disease drug therapy levodopa, in contrast to previously accepted thought that HRT interfered with absorption of the drug. A University of Miami study suggested that both men and women with higher body weights, and who have higher natural estrogen levels as a result of increased body fat, are at reduced risk of Parkinson's disease. "All these studies are scratching at the surface, but they begin to paint a picture of the benefits of estrogen on Parkinson's disease," said Lisa M. Shulman, University of Miami School of Medicine.—June Kinoshita


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