Men's health * 50+ health * Healthy living

Berries may help protect against Parkinson's

Berries may help protect against Parkinson s Rich in flavonoids

Eating berries and other fruits may help to lower the risk of developing Parkinson's disease, according to the latest research.

A study published in the journal Neurology found that men who ate the most flavonoid-rich foods such as berries, tea, apples and red wine were 40 per cent less likely to develop the disease, as compared to those who ate the least.

Flavonoids are a group of antioxidants found in many plant-based foods and drinks. Previous studies have shown them to have a protective effect against a range of diseases including heart disease, high blood pressure, some cancers and dementia.

But this is the first study in humans to show that flavonoids may also help to protect against Parkinson's disease, a progressive neurological condition that affects around 127,000 people in the UK.

Researchers from Harvard University and the University of East Anglia (UEA) tracked around 130,000 men and women for 20 years, during which 800 developed Parkinson's disease.

After analysing their diet and adjusting for age and lifestyle, men who ate the most flavonoids were shown to be 40 per cent less likely to develop the disease compared with those who ate the least.

No similar link was found for total flavonoid intake in women.

Looking at berry consumption alone, the researchers found that men who ate one or more portions of berries a week were around 25 per cent less likely to develop Parkinson's disease compared with those who ate none.

Professor 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 sub-class of flavonoids called anthocyanins may have neuroprotective effects."

Dr Xiang Gao of Harvard School of Public Health, who led the study, 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 scientists said the findings must now be confirmed by other large epidemiological studies and clinical trials.

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."

This article was published on Thu 5 April 2012



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