Healthy Diet May Reduce Nonmotor Symptoms of Prodromal Parkinson Disease

  • Motor neuron disease
  • Movement disorders
  • Parkinson disease

A new study published in the August 19, 2020 online issue of Neurology suggests that eating a healthy diet in midlife may be linked to fewer nonmotor symptoms of Parkinson Disease (PD). 

In this study, participants who strictly followed specific healthy diets were less likely to have 3 or more nonmotor symptoms that precede PD than those who didn’t follow the diets closely. Those who followed the Mediterranean diet closely were 33% less likely to have 3 or more nonmotor symptoms  evaluated. There was a similarly strong relationship between following the Alternative Healthy Eating Index diet and having 3 or more of the nonmotor symptoms. 

Eating more vegetables, nuts, and legumes, and consuming a moderate amount of alcohol, were all associated with a lower risk of having 3 or more nonmotor symptoms. 

“While this study does not show cause and effect, it certainly provides yet another reason for getting more vegetables, nuts, and legumes in your diet,” said Samantha Molsberry, PhD, Harvard University. “More research is needed to determine whether eating a healthy diet could delay or even prevent the development of PD among people who have these preceding symptoms already.” 

The study involved 47,679 participants who were asked every 4 years about how closely they were following the alternate Mediterranean diet or the Alternative Healthy Eating Index, starting in the 1980s when they were in midlife. In 2012, participants were asked whether they had constipation or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder (RBD), which are both common in individuals later diagnosed with PD..In 2014 through2015, 17,400 of the participants were asked about  loss of sense of smell, impaired color vision, excessive daytime sleepiness, body pain, and depression, which are also known to precede PD:. 

The alternate Mediterranean diet and Alternative Healthy Eating Indexboth encourage eating fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes, and discourage eating red meat. 

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