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Common Natural Sweetener Mannitol May Treat Parkinson’s Disease

Nearly 1.5 million Americans live with Parkinson’s disease (PD), a neurodegenerative disease for which there is no cure. Fortunately, a new study indicates that the artificial sweetener mannitol, a common component of sugar-free gums and candies, may hold potential for treating PD.

Researchers took interest in mannitol because, when given as an injection, it can reach the brain and stop some proteins in the body from clumping together (clumps of the protein alpha-synuclein are a well-known sign of PD.) In support of this idea, feeding mannitol to fruit flies improved their PD-like symptoms, allowing the flies to regain their normal movements.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already approved an oral form of mannitol as a diuretic to help flush excess water out of the body, and a mannitol injection to prepare people for chemotherapy.  Much research still needs to be done before we understand the impact on people with PD, for example, what doses would be needed to be safe and if the drug would be effective. So, people with PD should not attempt to medicate themselves by eating large amounts of sugar-free candy or chewing gum.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of th