Although it’s not clear why certain foods might have a protective effect, some research suggests Parkinson’s disease may be more likely to occur when cells in the body undergo a damaging process called oxidative stress.
This is where harmful substances get into the body, usually through poor diet, and attack healthy cells in much the same way as rust rots a car.
Fruit, vegetables, fish and pulses all contain high levels of antioxidants, which can help to block this process.
Parkinson’s disease develops when cells in the brain that control movement die off. The main symptoms include shaking, muscle stiffness and slowness of movement and many sufferers eventually find it difficult to walk, talk, swallow or write.
Although there is no cure, there are drugs to control the severity of the symptoms by compensating for the lack of dopamine – a chemical that acts as a ‘signal agent’ between the parts of the brain involved in movement and coordination.
In the latest study, the Tokyo researchers assessed the eating habits of 249 newly diagnosed Parkinson’s patients and compared them with 368 healthy volunteers.
They split them into three groups. ‘Healthy‘ diets were dominated by fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, pulses, mushrooms and seaweed, ‘Western’ diets, featuring higher levels of red and processed meat and foods high in animal fats and ‘Light Meals‘ roughly half way between the two.
The results showed those in the ‘Healthy diet’ group who ate the highest amounts of plant foods and fish were nearly half as likely to get Parkinson’s disease as those who ate the least.
Meanwhile, neither of the other two diets had any protective effect.
The study was published in the European Journal of Neurology.