Parkinson’s disease is a devastating neurodegenerative disease. It effects coordination and motor control, making activities as simple as walking very difficult. Eventually, it can even lead to depression and anxiety in those afflicted with it. But could some simple dietary changes delay or prevent the onset of Parkinson’s?
If new research from the University of British Columbia is right, the answer is yes.
The MIND diet has already been shown to have neuroprotective affects with regard to preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia. The MIND diet is a combination of elements of the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diets. The new research out of UBC is the first to show a correlation between these two diets and the delay or prevention of Parkinson’s disease.
“The study shows individuals with Parkinson’s disease have a significantly later age of onset if their eating pattern closely aligns with the Mediterranean-type diet. The difference shown in the study was up to 17 years later in women and eight years later in men,” says Dr. Silke Appel-Cresswell of the Pacific Parkinson’s Research Centre, the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health and the Division of Neurology in the UBC Faculty of Medicine. “There is a lack of medications to prevent or delay Parkinson’s disease yet we are optimistic that this new evidence suggests nutrition could potentially delay onset of the disease.”
Using a relatively small sample group of 176 participants, the scientists wanted to see if there was a link between adhering to these two diets and the age of Parkinson’s onset. Both the MIND and Mediterranean diets reduced meat intake and have a strong focus on eating fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and whole grains.
The team found that adhering to these diets delayed the onset of Parkinson’s in men by 8.4 years and in women by 17.4 years. While the Mediterranean diet seemed to work best for men in terms of the delay of Parkinson’s, the MIND diet seemed to work best for women. While the differences between the two diets are minimal and subtle, these could offer insights into what affect specific foods and micronutrients might have on brain health.
These subtle differences and the ways that dietary adherence impacts the different sexes is important, since about 60 percent of Parkinson’s sufferers are men.
“If we understand the sex differences between the MIND diet and Mediterranean diet then we might better understand the sex differences that drive Parkinson’s disease in the first place,” says lead researcher Avril Metcalfe-Roach, a PhD student at UBC’s Michael Smith Laboratories.
This research opens the door to other questions that may help us better understand Parkinson’s disease.
“It drives home the connection between the gut and the brain for this disease,” says Dr. Brett Finlay, professor in the departments of biochemistry and molecular biology, and microbiology and immunology at UBC. “It also shows it’s not just one disease that healthy eating can affect, but several of these cognitive diseases.”
The research team plans to further examine the potential connection between the microbiome and its effect on the brain.
“There is so much benefit to eating healthy,” says Metcalfe-Roach. “It is in everybody’s best interest to try to keep your microbiome healthy, to try and eat a rich variety of plant-based and other healthy foods. This study provides even more evidence for what we already know — that we should be trying to eat healthy and taking care of ourselves.”
If you could change your risk of getting a debilitating neurological disease simply by changing your diet, would you? You would think the answer would be an overwhelming “yes” for everybody. Yet with all we’ve learned about nutrition and health, over 40 percent of Americans continue to be obese, choosing a diet that will likely ruin their health and possibly even kill them.
I guess the old adage about leading a horse to water really is true when it comes to nutrition!
Keep the faith and keep after it!
Journal Reference – Avril Metcalfe‐Roach, Adam C. Yu, Ella Golz, Mihai Cirstea, Kristen Sundvick, Daniel Kliger, Liam H. Foulger, Melissa Mackenzie, B. Brett Finlay, Silke Appel‐Cresswell. MIND and Mediterranean Diets Associated with Later Onset of Parkinson’s Disease. Movement Disorders, 2021; DOI: 10.1002/mds.28464