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Nutrition | A Healthy Diet May Help Prevent Parkinson’s Disease

A Healthy Diet May Help Prevent Parkinson’s Disease

December 27, 2007—A healthy diet that includes an abundance of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish, and poultry and is low in saturated fat and alcohol may help protect against Parkinson’s disease, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Parkinson’s disease affects more than 1 million people in the United States today. The condition is characterized by a degeneration of the nervous system which leads to tremors, rigidity, and movement disorders. Oxidative stress and inflammation may contribute to its development. Because certain nutrients may counter these harmful effects due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, researchers are interested in the role that nutrition and diet play in the disease.

In this study, researchers evaluated data from two long-term studies examining the role of diet and lifestyle behaviors on health. They reviewed the dietary patterns of 49,692 men enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and 81,676 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study  After 16 years, 508 cases of Parkinson’s disease had been reported between the two groups.

Results of the analysis showed that people who ate lots of fruits and vegetables, legumes, and whole grains and who ate little meat were less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease compared with those individuals who ate a traditional Western diet characterized by high amounts of red and processed meat, refined grains, saturated fats, and high-fat dairy products.

It was noted that people who followed the healthy dietary pattern also exercised more, smoked less, consumed less caffeine, and ate a diet higher in vitamin E and vitamin C, compared with the people who followed the Western diet. However, when these factors were taken into account in the authors’ analysis, the healthy dietary pattern group were still at less risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

Since the nutrients that we consume affect our health in many complex ways, the authors state, “It is often difficult to identify the effect of a single food or nutrient on health outcomes. Dietary patterns represent a combination of nutrients and foods; thus, they may be a more powerful predictor of health outcomes that any single nutrient alone.”

(Am J Clin Nutr 2007;86:1486–94)

Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, Web sites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.

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The health information contained in this site is not intended as medical advice and should not be considered a substitute for appropriate medical care. Any products mentioned in studies cited in Healthnotes articles are not necessarily endorsed by Bastyr. As with any product, consult with a natural health practitioner to discuss what may be best for you.

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