Do Bananas Do a Brain Good?

Grab a banana and say bye-bye to Parkinson's disease? Researchers say it could be so.
Bananas are rich in vitamin B6 -- and very early research suggests that high levels of B6 may protect against Parkinson's. Still, the news is not something to go bananas over just yet. The benefit applied only to smokers in the most recent study. But bananas and B6 do your body good in many other ways.

Vitamin B6 -- along with folate and B12 -- helps reduce levels of homocysteine, an amino acid. That's good for your ticker, because too much homocysteine in the blood appears to up heart disease risk.

Homocysteine also appears to be toxic to nerve cells, and elevated levels have been linked to Parkinson's disease, a progressive neurological disorder that causes muscles to become rigid and shake uncontrollably.
Could B vitamins be the answer? Among nearly 5,000 people studied recently, smokers whose B6 intake was highest were 50 percent less likely to develop the brain disorder over a nearly 10-year period, compared to smokers who consumed the least amount of the vitamin. And although all three members of the nutrient trio help lower homocysteine, only B6 intake -- not folate or B12 -- translated into reduced rates of Parkinson's, suggesting the B vitamin may lower disease risk by some mechanism unrelated to the lowering of homocysteine.
What's smoking got to do with it? Oddly enough, nicotine may actually protect nerve cells in some way, and B6 may help out in that process.
Of course, that's no reason to light up. But it might be a good reason to peel a banana.


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