More berries and red wine in the diet may slow Parkinson’s disease

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan. 27, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Red wine may be a guilty pleasure, but new research shows it could also be a powerful weapon against the ravages of Parkinson’s disease.

Why? The antioxidants in red wine and fruits like berries may slow the progression of the movement disorder, a new study suggests.

According to researchers, people with Parkinson’s who eat three or more servings per week high in antioxidants called flavonoids may reduce their risk of premature death compared to people who don’t eat as many flavonoid-rich foods.

“Flavonoids are naturally occurring plant-based food components, rich in fruits and vegetables. They impart different colors to these plants,” said senior researcher Dr. Xiang Gao. He is director of the nutritional epidemiology laboratory at Pennsylvania State University, in University Park.

“Adapting a healthy diet, rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, even after a Parkinson’s diagnosis, could slow disease progression and improve survival,” he added.

Still, the study can’t prove that flavonoids extended the lives of Parkinson’s patients, just that there may be a connection, Gao said.

“In our previous study, published in Neurology in 2012, we found that flavonoids could prevent future Parkinson’s risk in those who did not have Parkinson’s at the start of follow-up,” Gao said. “The current study provides further evidence regarding neuro-protective effects of fruits and vegetables.”

Flavonoids found in some fruits, teas and red wine can quickly cross the blood-brain barrier and relieve oxidative stress, inflammation and atherosclerosis in the brain, which could reduce the impact of Parkinson’s, the researchers said.

For the study, Gao and his colleagues collected data on more than 1,200 people with Parkinson’s disease, average age 72, who had the condition for an average of 33 years. Every four years, the patients answered questions about their diet. Specifically, they were asked how often they consumed tea, apples, berries, oranges, and orange juice.

During the study, 75% of the patients died. Of these, 513 died of Parkinson’s, 112 died of cardiovascular disease and 69 of cancer.

Those whose diets contained the most flavonoids had a 70% higher survival rate compared to people whose diets contained the least amount of flavonoids, the researchers found.

The highest intake of flavonoids was about 673 milligrams (mg) per day and the lowest was about 134 mg per day. For reference, strawberries contain about 180 mg of flavonoids per 100 gram serving and apples about 113.

Eating more flavonoid-rich foods for developing Parkinson’s was linked to a lower risk of dying in men, but not in women, Gao noted. But after Parkinson’s was diagnosed, eating more flavonoids was linked to better survival rates for both sexes, he noted.

As for which foods are best, the researchers found that those who consumed anthocyanins, found in red wine and berries, had, on average, a 66% higher survival rate than those who consumed the lowest amount of anthocyanins.

For the flavonoid flavan-3-ols, found in apples, tea and wine, those who consumed the most had a 69% greater survival rate than those who consumed the least.

While it’s not clear how flavonoids work to improve Parkinson’s survival, adding berries, apples, oranges and tea to the diet could be an easy and low-risk way to improve outcomes, Gao said. However, he advises people who do not drink alcohol to start, but who would like to switch to red wine, he suggested.

The report was published online Jan. 26 in the journal Neurology.

dr. Michael Okun, national medical advisor for the Parkinson’s Foundation and director of the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at the University of Florida in Gainesville, said suddenly adding flavonoids to your diet may not be the magic trick for living longer for Parkinson’s. patients.

“The nature of the data from this study should not be interpreted as meaning that people with Parkinson’s will live longer if they suddenly change their diet to include flavonoids,” he said. “Mixing wine and Parkinson’s, for example, isn’t always safe because it can lead to injuries, usually related to falls.”

That doesn’t mean flavonoids aren’t good for Parkinson’s patients and may even have specific benefits for those with the disease.

“Overall, flavonoids are great for your health, and this study adds to the collective literature supporting a possible role in Parkinson’s disease,” Okun said.

More information

For more information about Parkinson’s disease, visit the Parkinson Foundation.

SOURCES: Xiang Gao, MD, PhD, professor and director, Laboratory of Food Epidemiology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa.; Michael Okun, MD, national medical advisor, Parkinson’s Foundation, director, University of Florida’s Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases, Gainesville, Florida; Neurology, January 26, 2022, online

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