Parkinson’s Disease can be a devastating disease, both for the patient concerned and their family and close friends.
As with other illnesses, the role of nutrition is often considered. Can changing your diet protect against developing Parkinson’s? Do lifestyle changes really make a difference?
Here, we look at both questions.
Is there any evidence that diet helps to reduce the risk?
Over the last 20 years, scientists have been regularly looking into whether diet can prevent or, in any way, slow down the onset of Parkinson’s. This ongoing research has highlighted a number of interesting findings, some of which have helped identify those most at risk of developing the disease.
In general, a healthier diet has been shown to be the most protective measure. The large numbers of vegetables and beneficial fats in the Mediterranean diet seem to lead to a lower incidence of Parkinson’s disease.
Caffeine has also been linked to a reduction in risk, although it is important to note that separate studies have shown caffeine having no effect.
Tea consumption has highlighted potential benefits, particularly in a Chinese population. However, it is unclear whether this is because of the caffeine content or the myriad of polyphenols and antioxidants it contains.
What about food supplements?
The evidence for gaining some form of protection against Parkinson’s by taking food supplements is mixed and there are large differences between the various studies.
A review of 20 studies demonstrated that individuals whom had higher levels of Vitamin D seemed to have a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Interestingly, it was also noted that the presence of Vitamin D3, in those individuals who had already been diagnosed as sufferers, helped to stabilise the disease, albeit for a short period of time.
Taking antioxidants and multivitamins were generally thought to afford protection on the basis that an individual should suffer less cell damage. However, the results have been lacking. Vitamins generally showed no effect on preventing the onset of Parkinson’s disease and Co-Enzyme Q10 showed little impact on existing patients.
Are there any foods to avoid?
Fortunately, the indicators as to which foods to reduce or avoid are much clearer from the scientific studies.
Drinking milk seems to be a high risk factor for both men and women. The evidence has not pinpointed the exact reason for its negative effect, but some indicators point to the presence of small quantities of pesticides and/or environmental toxins. Another reason is that dairy products generally lower uric acid levels and research has shown that uric acid can operate as a form of protection against the onset of Parkinson’s, albeit in men only.
Further research published in 2014, suggested reducing both milk and cheese resulted in a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s, but for men only.
What other lifestyle changes can help?
While changing your diet can help reduce the chances of developing Parkinson’s, this should not be the sole focus and, as you would expect, other lifestyle adjustments can also have an effect. These include:
- Not smoking – cognitive impairment as part of Parkinson’s disease has regularly been linked to smoking tobacco.
- Exercising more – there are indications that exercise lessens the risk, particularly for men, of developing Parkinson’s disease. Furthermore, engaging in regular fitness regimes can be beneficial for diagnosed patients.
- Prioritising your mental well-being. Depression has been identified as a risk factor for Parkinson’s disease and, therefore, whilst it is easier said than done, individuals should try to maintain a positive attitude and make time for activities they enjoy.
Overall, while it is impossible for an individual to fully protect themselves from developing Parkinson’s disease at some stage in their life, there are a number of helpful measures and activities which an individual can take and enjoy in order to reduce the risks.
 Prospective study of dietary pattern and risk of Parkinson’s disease by the American Society for Clinical Nutrition http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/5/1486.short
 Association of Coffee and Caffeine Intake with the Risk of Parkinson’s Disease http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/192731
 Parkinson’s Disease and Tea: A Quantitative Review http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07315724.2009.10719754
 Systematic Review of the Relationship between Vitamin D and Parkinson’s Disease http://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-parkinsons-disease/jpd150615
 Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of vitamin D supplementation in Parkinson disease http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/97/5/1004.short
 Intake of antioxidant vitamins and risk of Parkinson’s disease http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/mds.26819/full
A Randomized Clinical Trial of High Dosage Coenzyme Q10 in Early Parkinson Disease http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/fullarticle/1851409
 Consumption of milk and calcium in midlife and the future risk of Parkinson http://www.neurology.org/content/64/6/1047.short
 High Uric-Acid Levels, Lower Risk of Parkinson’s? http://www.webmd.com/parkinsons-disease/news/20160113/high-uric-acid-levels-lower-risk-of-parkinsons
 Dairy foods intake and risk of Parkinson’s disease: a dose–response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10654-014-9921-4
 Smoking history is associated to cognitive impairment in Parkinson’s disease http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13607863.2015.1090393
 Physical activity and the risk of Parkinson disease http://www.neurology.org/content/64/4/664.short
 The effectiveness of exercise interventions for people with Parkinson’s disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/mds.21922/full
 Increased risk of Parkinson’s disease after depression http://www.neurology.org/content/58/10/1501.short