The link between food and Parkinson’s disease is increasingly realized in recent years. Research shows that consuming certain food groups may protect from developing Parkinson’s symptoms. This article briefly discusses those types of food.
Parkinson’s is a progressive brain disease that affects millions of people worldwide. The typical symptoms of the disease include tremor, rigidity, slowness of movement, and balance problems. These symptoms appear when the brain fails to produce enough amount of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that controls body movement.
The majority of Parkinson’s cases are sporadic; meaning that their cause is unknown. However, research suggests that nutrition may play a role in disease development. Numerous studies have identified certain food components that may reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
Here are the 5 food groups that may help to protect from developing Parkinson’s disease.
1. Food with Omega-3 Fatty Acid
Omega-3 is a form of polyunsaturated fatty acids that provides numerous health benefits. Its primary source is fatty fish. It can also be found in nuts and certain plant seeds.
Laboratory research on animals has shown that omega-3 may protect the brain against Parkinson’s disease. In a series of experiments, when mice were treated with MPTP (1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine), a chemical that damage the brain similar to Parkinson’s disease, the brain showed a significant loss in the dopamine-producing cells. However, when the mice were given omega-3 before exposing to MPTP, the majority of the brain cells survived.
Similarly, a study published in the Journal of Neurology found that a high intake of unsaturated fatty acids (omega-3) may reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. In this study, 5,289 subjects who were free of Parkinsonism underwent complete dietary assessment. After a mean follow-up of 6.0 years, 51 participants developed Parkinson’s symptoms. These participants were found to consume less unsaturated fatty acids compared to those who didn’t develop the disease. The study concluded that a high intake of unsaturated fatty acids might protect against Parkinson’s disease.
2. Food with Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient that possessed a strong antioxidant property. Dry fruits and leafy vegetables are the rich sources of vitamin E. Other sources include vegetable oils, soy, plums, and wheat germ.
Dietary vitamin E acts as an antioxidant and may protect brain cells from damage caused by oxidative stress, which is strongly linked to Parkinson’s disease.
Its protective effect against Parkinson’s was first found in a study published in the Journal of JAMA Neurology in 1988. In this study, 81 Parkinson’s patients and their siblings were asked for their consumption of a list of food containing fruits and vegetables. It was found that those who were frequently eating vitamin E rich food (like nuts, plums, salad oil) in their 40s were tolerant to develop Parkinson’s disease.
A similar protective effect of vitamin E was also observed in studies performed in 1997 and 2002. Both studies concluded that a high intake of dietary vitamin E is associated with a lower incidence of Parkinson’s disease.
3. Food with Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble form of vitamins that is required for the body to stay healthy. It is usually found in fishes, eggs, cheese, and to some extent in beef.
A possible connection between vitamin D and Parkinson’s disease has been explored in recent years. The results so far indicate that low levels of vitamin D may increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
A study involving 25 Parkinson’s patients and 25 healthy volunteers found that Parkinson’s patients carry significantly lower levels of vitamin D in their blood compared to healthy individuals. The study further concluded that such a deficiency has a strong impact on the motor and cognitive symptoms of the patients.
Similar findings were also observed in another study that included 388 Parkinson’s patients and 283 control subjects. The study found a significantly lower amount of vitamin D in the blood of patients when it was compared with that of controls one. The study suggested that thousands of Parkinson’s patients in North America alone may be vitamin D deficient.
Moreover, a postmortem study of Parkinson’s patient has found vitamin D receptors at higher concentrations in the area of the brain linked to Parkinson’s disease. The study suggested that the presence of these receptors indicates that vitamin D may be able to protect the brain cells that are lost in Parkinson’s disease.
4. Food with Fish Oil
Fish oil has antioxidant property and can protect the brain from oxidative stress insult. It is found in fishes like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and herring.
Laboratory studies performed in mice, rats, and other animals have reported that there is a possible link between fish oil and Parkinson’s disease, and suggest that those who stick to a diet containing fish oil may have a less chance of developing the disease symptoms.
Laboratory research on rats’ brains showed fish oil consumption restore the dopamine levels in the brain of traumatic brain injury (TBI), which is associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. In this study, which was published in the journal of Neuroscience Letters, rats with TBI were given either fish oil or olive oil for 7 days. When their brains were dissected out and analyzed for possible changes, it was found that the fish oil-treated group had more release of dopamine compared to those treated with olive oil.
5. Food with Mg
Mg is an important mineral that is required for the proper growth of bones. It is also involved in the proper functions of the brain, heart, and muscles. It is rich in green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains, cereals, legumes, potatoes, rice, milk, fruits, chicken, beef, and salmon.
Research suggests that Mg may also have a role in Parkinson’s disease. A study conducted in Japan has found that people who consume less Mg are at high risk of developing Parkinson’s. In this study, 249 Parkinson’s patients and 368 healthy controls were examined for their consumption of different metals. The study found that those who were consuming high Mg in their diet were less likely to develop Parkinson’s compared to those who were consuming less. The study further concluded that a higher intake of Mg may be protective against Parkinson’s.
There is also evidence indicating that Mg has a direct relation to Parkinson’s progression. A study involving 91 Parkinson’s patients and 18 controls found that Mg concentration in cerebrospinal fluid decreased with the duration and severity of the disease. Its abnormal levels were also observed in other studies.
Disclaimer: The information shared here should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions presented here are not intended to treat any health conditions. For your specific medical problem, consult with your health care provider.