Parkinson’s diet: Can what you eat reduce your risk of Parkinson’s?


Around 145,000 people in the UK are living with Parkinson’s, according to Parkinson’s UK, and currently, there is no cure. However, research is uncovering new possibilities for treatment and reducing the risk of people developing the life-changing condition, including how your diet could play a role in your risk profile.

Dr Katherine Fletcher, Research Communications Officer for Parkinson’s UK, joined to talk about the impact diets can have on your risk of developing Parkinson’s.

Dr Fletcher said: “Parkinson’s is really complex. It’s probably a combination of multiple risk factors that come together over someone’s lifetime that contribute when they go on to develop Parkinson’s.

“When it comes to risk factors for Parkinson’s, age is a huge one: someone’s risk increases as they get older.

“Large studies that monitor people over time look for patterns in their environment or lifestyle that may have increased their risk of developing the condition.

“And there is already some evidence things such as red meat, processed meat or a high-fat diet might increase someone’s risk of going on to develop Parkinson’s.”

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Diets high in processed foods and saturated fats have been associated with many dangerous health conditions which become more likely as you get older, including heart disease and vascular dementia.

It’s a good idea to cut down on these foods as a preventative measure against many health conditions, including those stemming from high cholesterol or hypertension.

In the case of Parkinson’s, more research is needed to understand the nuances of how diet could increase the risk of the condition, but Dr Fletcher explains the “huge mixture” of evidence as to why this could be.

Dr Fletcher said: “Some research says high cholesterol for instance, which is found in fatty food, contributes to the risk of Parkinson’s.

Studies have shown promise for a substance called farnesol found in fruits, which was observed to stop a build-up of PARIS protein in the brain, which is associated with Parkinson’s.

Dr Fletcher said: “PARIS protein acts as a handbrake to a protective pathway so you can see how that’s going to cause problems.

“Farnesol potentially inhibits Paris and could restore these kind of protective pathways in the brain which is really interesting.

“The research into farnesol looked at this in a mouse model, and I think its important to note too although farnesol is a naturally occurring compound found in fruit, the mice in the study were being given a very concentrated extract, not just the fruit.”

While fruit would certainly be a healthier alternative to many high-fat, processed and salty snacks, there isn’t proof it can turn back the clock on Parkinson’s.

Although it will take time and more research to determine if this fruit extract could lead to the development of a possible treatment for Parkinson’s, Dr Fletcher is optimistic about all the research underway to learn more about this condition.

If you are worried about Parkinson’s or think you may be experiencing any symptoms of the condition, Dr Fletcher says to speak to a healthcare professional.

She said: “We’d encourage anyone who is worried to go to their GP or get in touch with Parkinson’s UK.

“We’re a charity here to provide support, advice and information as well as funding research. Anyone can reach us on our helpline at 0808 800 0303.”

You can find out more about Parkinson’s UK at their website



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