A study has found that men who eat diets high in flavonoids, found in berries, tea, apples and red wine, were less likely to develop the condition than those who ate few of these foods.
The research was conducted by a team at Harvard University and University of East Anglia and is published in the journal Neurology. They followed 130,000 men and women for 20 years and found that 800 developed Parkinson’s disease in that time. By analysing their diet, lifestyle and other factors, they concluded that those who ate the most flavonoids were 40 per cent less likely to develop Parkinson’s than those who ate the least. When they only looked at berries, it was found that those who ate a portion of berries a week were 25 per cent less likely to develop the disease than those who ate few or no berries.
It is thought flavonoids protect against damage caused by ageing and can reduce the likelihood of heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers, although studies involving diet are extremely difficult to conduct fairly and cannot prove that the food itself reduced the risk of disease. This is thought to be the first study in humans to show that flavonoids can protect brain cells.Prof Aedin Cassidy of the Department of Nutrition, Norwich Medical School at UEA, said:
“These exciting findings provide further confirmation that regular consumption of flavonoids can have potential health benefits.“This is the first study in humans to look at the associations between the range of flavonoids in the diet and the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and our findings suggest that a subclass of flavonoids called anthocyanins may have neuroprotective effects.”
Lead author Dr Xiang Gao of Harvard School of Public Health said: “Interestingly, anthocyanins and berry fruits, which are rich in anthocyanins, seem to be associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease in pooled analyses.“Participants who consumed one or more portions of berry fruits each week were around 25 per cent less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease, relative to those who did not eat berry fruits. Given the other potential health effects of berry fruits, such as lowering risk of hypertension as reported in our previous studies, it is good to regularly add these fruits to your diet.”
The authors said the findings must now be confirmed by other large epidemiological studies and clinical trials.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological condition affecting one in 500 people, which equates to 127,000 people in Britain.Dr Kieran Breen, director of research at Parkinson’s UK said: “This study raises lots of interesting questions about how diet may influence our risk of Parkinson’s and we welcome any new research that could potentially lead to prevention.
“While these new results look interesting there are still a lot of questions to answer and much more research to do before we really know how important diet might be for people with Parkinson’s.”
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