Mediterranean diet may lower Parkinson’s disease risk

People who closely followed a Mediterranean diet—high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, whole grains, and unsaturated fats—were less likely to develop early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, compared to those who ate less-healthy diets, according to a new study led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

While Parkinson’s disease is most known for movement-related symptoms such as tremors, early symptoms can include constipation, excessive daytime sleepiness, and depression.

The study was published August 19, 2020 in Neurology.

Researchers looked at health data from 47,679 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. They compared participants’ diets to a Mediterranean-style diet and also scored what they ate using the Alternate Healthy Eating Index.

Overall, people who scored in the top 20% of diet quality were one-third less likely to develop multiple early Parkinson’s symptoms over 20 years, compared to people in the bottom 20%.

Lead author Samantha Molsberry, a postdoctoral research fellow, said in an August 20 U.S. News & World Report article that while the new findings do not prove that diet affects Parkinson’s disease risk, there is reason to believe that eating healthy may be protective by lowering inflammation in the body. And there is no downside to this eating pattern, she said. “I think this is one more reason to encourage people to eat a healthy diet.”

Read the U.S. News & World Report article: Mediterranean Diet Might Lower Your Odds for Parkinson’s