Prior studies have found that people who consume green tea, coffee, and blueberries and avoid dairy may have a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease. Whether nutrition is associated with rate of disease progression in patients with Parkinson’s disease, however, is not known.
To evaluate whether diet, exercise, and supplements are associated with rate of Parkinson’s disease progression, Laurie Mischley, ND, PhD, MPH, Assistant Research Scientist at Bastyr University Research Institute in Kenmore, Washington, and Richard Lau, MPH, a PhD student in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University in Corvalis conducted an Internet-based natural history study. A total of 1,024 patients participated in the study. Participants had a mean age of 60.7 and had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease for an average of 6.7 years.
The researchers used the Patient-Reported Outcomes in Parkinson’s Disease (PRO-PD) scale to assess Parkinson’s disease severity. Disease progression was defined as PRO-PD score adjusted for age and years since diagnosis. They used baseline food frequency questionnaires to quantify dietary intake in the cross-sectional analysis.
Fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, nuts and seeds, olive oil, fish (non-fried), wine, eggs, and fresh herbs were associated with a statistically significant improvement in PRO-PD score, the researchers said. Fried foods, beef, diet soda, canned fruits, and canned vegetables were associated with more severe disease. Dairy consumption was not associated with disease severity.
Of the supplements and pharmaceuticals studied, oral glutathione, rasagiline, and coenzyme Q10 were associated with improved PRO-PD scores, whereas iron was associated with more severe disease. The effect of melatonin was not significant, however, when the researchers considered poor sleep.The researchers observed a dose response curve with exercise. Exercising at least 30 minutes daily was associated with the greatest reduction in disease severity.
“Whether iron, fried foods, diet soda, or canned goods provide environmental insults that accelerate disease progression warrants immediate attention,” the researchers concluded. “This pragmatic natural history study offers the first evidence base for prescribing lifestyle modification (beyond exercise) to patients with Parkinson’s disease. Patients should be empowered to know that they can make choices that affect outcomes."