Mediterranean diets linked to delayed onset of Parkinson’s

By Lynda Searby

- Last updated on GMT

getty | marianvejcik
getty | marianvejcik

Related tags Research Mediterranean diet Cognitive decline

New research from the University of British Columbia has added to a growing body of evidence linking Mediterranean diets with slower neurodegeneration.

The study found a strong correlation between following the MIND and Mediterranean diets and the later onset of Parkinson’s disease. While both diets have previously been associated with a neuroprotective effect for Alzheimer’s and dementia, this study is the first to look at the MIND diet in a cohort of people with Parkinson’s Disease.

“It’s exciting to see that these diets are proving beneficial across multiple neurodegenerative diseases, as it suggests that these diseases may share common mechanisms that we may be able to influence through healthy eating,”​ lead researcher Avril Metcalfe-Roach told NutraIngredients.

Analysing dietary data from 167 participants with Parkinson’s, the researchers found that close adherence to the MIND diet coincided with later onset of the disease – up to 17.4 years for women. In men, the Mediterranean diet was shown to have the most significant impact, delaying the onset of Parkinson’s by up to 8.4 years.

The Mediterranean‐DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet was published in 2015 in an attempt to refine the Mediterranean diet to minimise cognitive decline. The differences between the two diets are subtle: the MIND diet rewards leafy green, berry, and poultry intake while minimising the consumption of fried food and sweets. Milk, potato, and fruit intake are also discarded.

The mystery of the differences between the sexes

The different impact that adherence to these diets appeared to have on men and women is noteworthy as approximately two-thirds of Parkinson’s patients are men. The reasons why more men suffer from Parkinson’s are not yet understood, but the researchers said these latest findings “may be an important piece of the puzzle”​.

“Because many of the food groups are common to both diets, we can assume that the difference is due to the unique aspects of the MIND diet such as limiting fried and sugary foods. Mediterranean-style diets are thought to work in part by increasing the number of anti-inflammatory microbes in the gut; it’s possible that women respond more strongly to food-related inflammation, which is perhaps better captured by the MIND diet,” ​said Metcalfe-Roach.

He added: “Ultimately, however, we just don’t know what causes women to potentially benefit more from the MIND diet than men.”

According to the researchers, discovery of a strong correlation between age of onset of Parkinson’s and dietary habits suggests that nutritional strategies may be an effective tool to delay onset of the disease.

“Previous studies involving elderly people have suggested that improving your diet can noticeably improve cognition in as little as few months,” ​noted Metcalfe-Roach.

Unravelling the gut-brain connection

The researchers also said that the results “drive home the connection between the gut and the brain for this disease”​.

“Our results are particularly exciting for this reason, as they hint that the microbiome may indeed have an active role in disease development. Gut microbial changes have been associated with most well-known neurodegenerative diseases, but interestingly, the changes observed in Parkinson’s disease patients are arguably the most consistent across all studies,” ​said Metcalfe-Roach.

Parkinson’s disease is associated with a range of gastrointestinal symptoms which commonly start to occur decades before the disease is diagnosed.

Metcalfe-Roach said these early gut changes may be crucial for understanding the root causes of Parkinson’s, and that the results of this study suggest that maintaining a healthy gut-brain axis through healthy eating could play a pivotal role in this process.

The research team plans to further examine the potential connection between the microbiome and its effect on the brain.

“Mediterranean style diets are thought to promote the growth of certain microbes that produce anti-inflammatory molecules, and importantly, these microbes are consistently decreased in people with Parkinson’s disease. Understanding if and how these anti-inflammatory molecules help prevent Parkinson’s disease will be key for understanding how Mediterranean-style diets might prevent neurodegeneration,” ​said Metcalfe-Roach.


Source: Movement Disorders

Authors: Avril Metcalfe‐Roach, Adam C. Yu, Ella Golz, Mihai Cirstea, Kristen Sundvick, Daniel Kliger, Liam H. Foulger, Melissa Mackenzie, B. Brett Finlay, Silke Appel‐Cresswell

"MIND and Mediterranean Diets Associated with Later Onset of Parkinson's Disease"

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