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The common pain reliever ibuprofen may help guard against Parkinson's disease, a new study indicates.

The research is based on 136,000 men and women who did not have Parkinson's disease at the start of the study period. Participants were asked about how often they used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin), acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). After six years of follow-up, 293 participants had developed the disease.

The study revealed that people who regularly took ibuprofen were 40 per cent less likely to get Parkinson's disease than those who didn't use the drug. Frequent users popped ibuprofen at least twice a week, primarily to dampen joint and muscle pain. The results will be presented in April at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Toronto.

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"Our study suggests that ibuprofen could be a potential neuroprotective agent against Parkinson's disease," said the study's lead author, Xiang Gao of Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. Although the findings are promising, they must still be confirmed by other studies. And researchers have yet to explain why ibuprofen - but not other NSAIDS - appears to reduce the risk of the disorder.

Parkinson's disease is caused by the destruction of brain cells that normally play a key role in motor control and co-ordination. As more brain cells die, the patient gradually loses muscle control and is afflicted with involuntary shaking, slowed movement, stiffness and impaired balance.

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