Beans contain levodopa

Gugenheim ate beans with natural levodopa. Later, the pharmaceutical industry manufactured synthetic levo-dopa that is sold as Sinemet, Madopar and Stalevo.

Common beans (Vicia faba) are a natural source of levodopa, which accumulates in the pods and in the seeds, although in apparently small amounts.

 

CONSUMING BEANS IMPROVES PARKINSON’S

There was anecdotal descriptions of Parkinson’s patients who experiences improvements after consuming beans1.

The first controlled trial demonstrating efficacy was carried out in 1992. The researchers asked several Parkinson’s patients to eat a serving of beans, and then measured blood levodopa. They found that, parallel to the rise in blood levels of levodopa, symptoms improved at the same time2.

A SERVING OF BEANS IS HALF A SINEMET

This is the equivalence in terms of the improvement of symptoms and of the elevation in blood levels of levodopa.

In one study2), six Parkinson’s patients (at a median of 63.5 years old, 13 years of duration of disease, all at stage 3) were left without medications for 12 hours. Then they ate a dish of cooked beans (half a pound).

In the next four hours there was an increasing level of levodopa in the blood while the symptoms improved. This amelioration was similar to that which took place a few days later, under the same conditions, but giving half of a tablet of Sinemet 25/250 mg, i.e, 125 mg of levodopa with carbidopa 12.5 mg.

It is believed that in early-stage Parkinson’s disease, with few symptoms, beans would be a choice of treatment 4… if you find a way of ingesting the necessary quantities.

JUST A LITTLE LEVODOPA WORKS

Common beans contain low concentrations of levodopa that theoretically would disappear rapidly from the blood because the decarboxylase enzyme immediately converts it into dopamine.

It is therefore strange what we have seen: a small amount of levodopa that is ingested by eating beans suffices to improve parkinsonian symptoms. The simplest explanation is that these patients also take Sinemet, which contains carbidopa, and this substance increases the effectiveness of the levodopa in the vegetable.

But, why does this also occur in patients taking only agonists of dopamine without Sinemet? I will explain below.

 

LEVODOPA PLUS CARBIDOPA IS MORE EFECTIVE

In addition to levodopa, beans contain some carbidopa5 (which reduces decarboxylase enzyme). Therefore levodopa can remain in the blood longer before becoming dopamine.

That explains the improvement experienced by the patients: it is because beans contain levodopa and carbidopa in combination (more so in the tender sprouts).

In a way, the beans mimic Sinemet but perfect it. Within their seeds the carbidopa / levodopa ratio is 1:1. In Sinemet that ratio is 1:10, and in Sinemet Plus is 1:4. Taking into account these proportions, beans resemble a “super-plus” Sinemet.

It is recommended that the daily dose of carbidopa contain between 75 and 200 mg for fear that their clinical effects would be reduced due to excessive inhibition of dopa-decarboxylase.

However, recent studies show that the parkinsonian symptoms continue to improve under a daily dose of 450 mg carbidopa6. This would be a way to decrease the peripheral side effects of levodopa. In some countries tablets containing only carbidopa (Lodosyn) are dispensed. It has also been found that the absorption of carbidopa varies among individuals. Some people assimilate in “fast” mode and others in “slow”. This may explain variations in the response7 between individuals and the daily clinical oscillations observed. This could perhaps be corrected with an additional dose of carbidopa.

BEANS ENRICHED WITH CARBIDOPA

It is a good idea. We have seen that beans contain a naturally beneficial levodopa but in a limited quantity. This means that a little levodopa may improve symptoms because it has combined with the high proportion of carbidopa (it inhibits the decarboxylase that clear levodopa from the blood). It was recommended, always under medical supervision, that the patient eat some sprouts combined with carbidopa to increase efficiency: thus they needed fewer beans and parkinsonian symptoms improved more5.

Good research on this has been done in Australia 9. They have enriched beans with synthetic carbidopa and the results are much more evident: six patients ate a serving of beans mixed with carbidopa and five of them, in 40 minutes, marked an improvement of motor control which lasted almost two hours, equivalent to that which occurred when they were given one tablet of Sinemet.

In addition, plasma levodopa levels increased in parallel with the ingestion of carbidopa tablet 9 and beans..

POWDERED DRY BEANS HAVE LITTLE LEVODOPA

The attempt to treat parkinsonian symptoms with levodopa from common beans raises two problems.

The first is common sense: if a quarter of a kilo (about nine ounces) of beans is equivalent to half of a Sinemet 25/250, the average patient ought to take in between one and two kilograms (i.e. between two and four pounds) of beans daily.

The other option is to dry the legumes to be pulverized later. This does not work because dry beans contains less levodopa, and then they cannot be compressed into capsules. The patient would have to take it in bags, many bags, and that is not practical.

 

SEEDBED TO COLLECT BEAN SPROUTS

The young beans contain more levodopa than the mature ones but there is even much more in new sprouts of seedlings.beans plantation

If seeds are prepared for germination and bean sprouts are collected, the extract obtained is quite rich in levodopa11,  almost 20 times more. With these it is found that plasma levels rise demonstrably and symptoms improve. The maximum level of levodopa is achieved on the sixth day after soaking the seeds in water12.

There is another great advantage: buds are digested better than seeds and uncomfortable flatulence avoided.

Some patients grow their own beans in private gardens, but can be accomplished with a large seedling. Bean seeds germinate quickly and easily, and every morning one may harvest a dozen emerging sprouts: a small treasure to take as a daily dietary supplement.

Varieties of beans are also tested to increase their content of levodopa13. It is an economical choice that has already been proposed for developing countries where Sinemet, Madopar or Stalevo are too expensive.

DOSAGE MUST BE ADAPTED TO EACH CASE

Many patients can benefit from the consumption of beans, under medical supervision, taking into account the contraindications (favism or other previous illnesses, incompatible drugs, etc.). Also we must understand that the dosage is highly variable as it will depend on many factors.

The amount of levodopa can vary greatly by species, area of cultivation, soil conditions, precipitation and other factors. Is known that young bean pods contain more levodopa than mature grain. Approximately 100 g (3½ oz) fresh or green beans, may contain 50 to 100 mg levodopa11.

BEANS ARE MORE EFFECTIVE IN PATIENTS

Even if the beans are tender, with more levodopa, a healthy person hardly notice it. Its effect, however, is much higher in Parkinson’s patients medicated with Sinemet, Madopar or Stalevo (these tablets, bearing carbidopa, increase the effectiveness of levodopa beans, as we have seen).

Researchers have described some cases in which a patient with levodopa and dopamine agonists, after consuming the tender beans that they collected, were hospitalized with symptoms of severe dyskinesias15.

Eating beans changes the clinical state of the patients, sometimes too. And, if taken under controlled conditions, it can improve daily motor fluctuations

NEUROLEPTIC SYNDROME AFTER CESSATION OF BEANS

Eating beans influences the functional state of people with Parkinson’s disease, as we have seen in the previous case of overdose. But there is also evidence of the opposite case: a parkinsonian had been taking beans as adjuvant therapy for months, and suddenly interrupted the consumption. That caused a neuroleptic malignant syndrome (fever, rigors, lethargy, etc.)16, the same clinical picture that occurs when a patient stops taking their medication abruptly.

BEANS REDUCE “ON-OFF” FLUCTUATIONS

We have seen that in some patients who take various drugs (levodopa, dopamine agonists and others) eating broad beans can produce uncontrolled dyskinesias, because of the interactions that occur.

As published in the respected journal Movement Disorders, it has been shown that, under supervision, moderate consumption of beans decreases the clinical fluctuations of patients, prolonging the “on” time, i.e. the period of time they feel better 17.

Typically, 100 grams (four ounces) of fresh beans a day is sufficient18, but if you choose this option to improve your Parkinson’s disease, and especially if you use extracts, you must do so gradually and always under medical supervision since it may be necessary to adjust previously prescribed medications. Eating beans without medical advice carries risks19, including overdose, allergies and others.

SEARCHING FOR PLANTS WITH MORE LEVODOPA

The ideal would be to find plants (legumes or others) with a higher content of levodopa. This solution exists but not in European countries: in India, tropical Africa, and the Caribbean a wild legume grows, a “hairy bean” which has ten times more levodopa than ours: Mucuna pruriens.

[su_note note_color=”#ffbcba” radius=”6″]MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: All content found on this website were created for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. [/su_note]

Show 19 footnotes

  1. Spengos M, Vassilopoulos D. Improvement of Parkinson’s disease after Vicia faba consumption. Book of Abstracts, Ninth International Symposium on Parkinson’s disease. 1988;46.
  2. Rabey JM et al. Improvement of parkinsonian features correlate with high plasma levodopa values after broad bean (Vicia faba) consumption. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 1992; 55:725-727.
  3. Rabey JM et al. Improvement of parkinsonian features correlate with high plasma levodopa values after broad bean (Vicia faba) consumption. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 1992; 55:725-727.
  4. Rabey JM et al. Broad bean (Vicia faba) consumption and Parkinson’s disease. Adv Neurol 1993; 60:681-684.
  5. Mehran SM. Simultaneous determination of levodopa and carbidopa from fava bean, green peas and green beans by high performance liquid gas chromatography. J Clin Diagn Res 2013; 7:1004-1007.
  6. Brod LS, Aldred JL, Nutt JG. Are high doses of carbidopa a concern? A randomized, clinical trial in Parkinson’s disease. Mov Disord 2012; 27:750-753.
  7. Durso R et al. Variable absorption of carbidopa affects both peripheral and central levodopa metabolism. J Clin Pharmacol 2000; 40:854-860.
  8. Mehran SM. Simultaneous determination of levodopa and carbidopa from fava bean, green peas and green beans by high performance liquid gas chromatography. J Clin Diagn Res 2013; 7:1004-1007.
  9. Kempster PA et al. Motor effects of broad beans (Vicia faba) in Parkinson’s disease: single dose studies. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 1993; 2:85-89.
  10. Kempster PA et al. Motor effects of broad beans (Vicia faba) in Parkinson’s disease: single dose studies. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 1993; 2:85-89.
  11. Vered Y et al. Bioavailability of levodopa after comsumption of Vicia faba seedlings by Parkinsonian patients and control subjects. Clin Neuropharmacol 1994; 17:138-146.
  12. Goyoaga C et al. Content and distribution of vicine, convicine and L-DOPA during germination and seedling growth of twoVicia faba L. varieties. Europ Food Research Techn 2008; 227: 1537-1542.
  13. Kirakosyan A et al. The production of L-dopa and isoflavones in seeds and seedlings of different cultivars of Vivia faba L. (fava bean). Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine 2004; 1:131-135.
  14. Vered Y et al. Bioavailability of levodopa after comsumption of Vicia faba seedlings by Parkinsonian patients and control subjects. Clin Neuropharmacol 1994; 17:138-146.
  15. Ramírez-Moreno JM, Salguero I, Romaskevych O, Durán, MC. Consumo de habas (Vicia faba) y enfermedad de Parkinson: una fuente natural de L-dopa a tener en cuenta. Carta al editor. Neurología 2013. doi:10.1016/j.nrl.2013.08.006.
  16. Ladha SS, Walker R, Shill, HA. Case of neuroleptic malignant-like syndrome precipitated by abrupt fava bean discontinuance. Mov Disord 2005; 20:630-631.
  17. Apaydin H, Ertan S, Ozekmekçi, S. Broad bean (Vicia faba)–a natural source of L-dopa–prolongs “on” periods in patients with Parkinson’s disease who have “on-off” fluctuations. Mov Disord 2000; 15:164-166.
  18. Holden, K. Fava Beans, Levodopa, and Parkinson’s Disease. http://www.scienzavegetariana.it/nutrizione/ favabeans.html.
  19. Raguthu L, Varanese S, Flancbaum L, Tayler E, Di Rocco A. Fava beans and Parkinson’s disease: useful ‘natural supplement’ or useless risk? . Eur J Neurol. 2009; 16:e171.

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