WEDNESDAY, Jan. 13, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Men with high levels of uric acid in their blood may be less likely to develop Parkinson's disease, a new study suggests.
Researchers compared about 400 people in ongoing studies who developed Parkinson's disease and more than 1,200 people in the same studies who did not develop the movement disorder.
Men with the highest levels of uric acid (also called urate) were nearly 40 percent less likely to develop Parkinson's disease than those with the lowest levels, according to the study published online Jan. 13 in the journal Neurology.
"These results suggest that urate could protect against Parkinson's or slow the progression of the disease in its very early stages before symptoms are seen," study author Dr. Xiang Gao, of Pennsylvania State University, said in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology.
"The findings support more research on whether raising the level of urate in people with early Parkinson's may slow the disease down," Gao added.
Among men who developed the disease, 45 had the highest level of urate and 58 had the lowest level. Among men without the disease, 111 had the highest level of urate and 107 had the lowest level, according to the report.
There was no association between urate levels and Parkinson's disease risk in women, the study found.
Urate is formed when chemicals called purines -- found in food -- are broken down in the body. Previous research has suggested that urate may help protect brain cells.
It's easy and inexpensive to boost people's urate levels, but it must be done with care because extremely high levels can cause kidney stones and gout, Gao said.
He explained that the study does not prove that high levels of urate protect against Parkinson's disease, only that such levels are associated with a lower risk. Further research is needed to learn more about this association and why high levels of urate are not associated with lower risk of Parkinson's disease in women, Gao added.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about Parkinson's disease.