Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter – a chemical involved in the transmission of nerve impulses. It is made from a combination of acetyl with the nutrient choline, and is required for many functions, particularly memory and intestinal peristalsis.
Acetylcholinesterase (AChE), an enzyme which breaks down acetylcholine in junctions between nerve cells, is thought to maintain levels of acetylcholine within safe bounds. Organophosphate pesticides are known to inhibit this enzyme.
In Parkinson’s disease, acetylcholine-containing nerve cells appear to be improperly controlled. Drugs which inhibit the action of acetylcholine can ease the symptoms of parkinsonism.
Neurochemical examinations of the brains of individuals dying with Alzheimer’s disease show a significant reduction in acetylcholine and the enzymes associated with both its synthesis and destruction, in the parts of the brain most severely damaged by the disease.
Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator