Gingers have many a health quirk, such as their super-ability to generate more vitamin D and their weird oversensitivity to heat pain, but are redheads at an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease?
A link between melanoma and Parkinson’s disease had previously been noted in previously various studies, and with redheads having an approximately three-fold higher risk of melanoma than those with black hair, a new study looked at the role of hair colour in determining risk of Parkinson’s disease.
A group of more than 130,000 people were asked in 1986 and 1988 what their hair colour was in early adulthood (18-21 years old), categorising them hair colour as falling into one of four categories: black, brown, blonde and red.
With years of data under its belt, in 2002 the study concluded that those with red hair had approximately a two-fold higher risk of Parkinson’s disease relative to those with black hair. Blondes came in second with over 1.5 times the risk, and brunettes with 1.4 times.
“Risk of Parkinson’s disease increased monotonically with decreasing darkness of hair color. When we further adjusted for ethnicity, the associations were attenuated but blonde and red hair color remained significantly associated with a higher risk, relative to those with black hair,” read the study’s analysis.
It’s now wondered whether it’s actually the MC1R ‘ginger gene’ that contributes to this: “The exact mechanisms underlying the increased risk of Parkinson’s disease associated with light hair or MC1R gene variants is not known. However, it is plausible that pigmentation metabolism, and genes that encode these proteins, may be involved in the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease.”