Fava beans are a natural source of levodopa.
Fava beans, otherwise known as Vicia faba is a green flat been known to contain levodopa. Both the seed and the pod can be eaten. The amount of levodopa that fava beans have varies tremendously depending on the part of the bean eaten, age of the bean at harvest and growing conditions. Younger, green fava beans and pods have more levodopa than older or dried beans.
Fava beans are thought to improve the movement symptoms of Parkinson’ because fava beans contain the dopamine precursor levodopa. At present, there is no recommended daily serving of fava beans guaranteed to give a specific amount of levodopa.
Fava beans are a good source of vitamin C, magnesium, iron, and protein. There is a hereditary condition of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency in males predominantly of African, Mediterranean or Asian decent called favism. If not controlled, this condition can cause a serious breakdown of red blood cells called hemolytic anemia. Episodes can be triggered by illness, certain medicines and fava beans.
The following general principles must be understood when considering fava beans for your Parkinson’s symptoms:
1. The proposed active compound, levodopa, found in these seeds is chemically the same as that in standard medicine carbidopa/Levodopa. Fava beans, therefore, can have the same side effects, long term effects and drug interactions that are seen with levodopa.
2. The amount of levodopa in consumed bean or bean pod is variable. Therefore, unlike levodopa in the pill it is not possible to determine the precise amount that is ingested.
3. Many people prefer ‘natural remedies’ to pills. Contrary to popular belief natural remedies are not risk free! Benefits and side effects can vary due to the variability in amounts of levodopa in these beans and the interactions that can occur with fava beans and other medicines. It is extremely important that you talk to your healthcare provider about this option before you begin to see if it right for you.
To learn about other foods or supplements that contain levodopa see also mucuna pruriens.