Can You Lower Your Risk of Parkinson’s Disease by Eating Berries?

Photo by: Flickr
Photo by: Flickr

If you eat berries and other antioxidant-rich fruits will it lower your risk of Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s is a progressive disease of the brain and central nervous system that causes muscle rigidity and difficulty walking. People with this disorder often have a visible tremor in their hands.

No one knows exactly what causes Parkinson’s disease, but people who have it have fewer cells in a portion of the brain called the substantia nigra. They also have reduced levels of a neurotransmitter called dopamine, a brain chemical that controls movement.

Berries and Fruits: Can They Lower the Risk of Parkinson’s Disease?

It’s gratifying when foods that are tasty and readily available lower the risk of disease. According to a new study, eating berries and fruits could lower the risk of Parkinson’s disease.

When researchers looked at the eating habits of more than 130,000 men and women and followed them for over 20 years, they found those who ate the most flavonoid-rich foods, such as berries and fruits, had the lowest risk of developing Parkinson’s.

Flavonoids are a type of antioxidant found in plants. These natural compounds help to ward off cell damage and reduce inflammation, which may explain their role in preventing Parkinson’s disease.

Berries have high concentrations of flavonoids but tea, red wine, cranberries, apples, oranges and red beans do too. If you don’t like eating berries and fruits, there are other ways to get flavonoids in your diet.

Eating Berries and Parkinson’s Disease Risk

This study is encouraging, but more research is needed to look at how flavonoids affect diseases of the central nervous system such as Parkinson’s. It’s possible that eating berries and fruits also lowers the risk of other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

In studies involving rats, researchers found that eating flavonoid-rich blueberries boosted memory and reduced age-related memory problems. Other research shows they reduce amyloid plaques in the brain, a cardinal sign of Alzheimer’s patients.

One caveat. This study used questionnaires to determine flavonoid intake, which is not always accurate. But despite the limitations of the study, there are lots of good reasons to eat berries and fruits. Enjoy them for their fiber, vitamins and minerals – as well as for their flavonoids.