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Mediterranean diet 'halves risk of Parkinson's disease'

Monday January 23, 2012

Unclear why certain foods might have protective effect
PAT HAGAN

Mail Online - A Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruit, vegetables and fish can almost halve the risk of Parkinson's disease, according to new research.

The study revealed healthy eating habits slashed the risk of the incurable brain disorder by up to 46 per cent.

The findings, published in the European Journal of Neurology, support earlier studies suggesting diet could have a key role to play in preventing a disease which affects 120,000 people in the UK.

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.
Around 10,000 new cases of Parkinson's disease are diagnosed every year in the UK.

Among the elderly, the risk of developing the disorder increases sharply. It affects about five in every 1,000 people in their 60s but 40 in every 1,000 in their 80s.

It 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, researchers at the University of Tokyo 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.

In a report on their findings the researchers said: 'A dietary pattern consisting of high intakes of vegetables, fruits and fish may be associated with a decreased risk of Parkinson's disease.'

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