In a new study from Penn State, researchers found people with Parkinson’s disease who eat more flavonoids—compounds found in richly colored foods like berries, cocoa and red wine—may have a lower mortality risk than those who don’t.
They found that when people who had already been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) ate more flavonoids, they had a lower chance of dying during the 34-year study period.
Additionally, eating more flavonoids before being diagnosed with PD was linked to a lower risk of death in men, but not in women.
According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, more than 60,000 people are diagnosed with PD each year, and more than 10 million people worldwide are living with the disease.
The disease is caused by the brain not making enough dopamine and leads to tremors, stiffness and problems with balance.
While PD is not considered a fatal disease, its complications can lead to an increased risk of death, and few studies have examined how the diet of people with PD can affect disease prognosis.
In this study, the researchers analyzed data on 599 women and 652 men who had recently been diagnosed with PD. Participants were asked how often they ate certain flavonoid-rich foods, such as tea, apples, berries, oranges and orange juice, and red wine.
They found that the participants in the group of the highest 25 percent of flavonoid consumers had a 70% greater chance of survival than the lowest group.
The people in the highest group consumed about 673 milligrams (mg) of flavonoids each day while those in the lowest group consumed about 134 mg.
The researchers also analyzed the effects of individual flavonoids. They found that those in the top 25%consumers of anthocyanins—found in red wine and berries—had a 66% greater survival rate compared to those in the lowest 25%.
Additionally, the top 25% of consumers of flavan-3-ols—found in apples, tea and wine—had a 69% greater survival rate compared to the lowest 25%.
The team says flavonoids are antioxidants, so it’s possible they could be lowering chronic neuroinflammation levels.
It’s also possible they may interact with enzyme activities and slow neuron loss and could protect against cognitive decline and depression, which are both associated with higher mortality risk.
If you care about Parkinson’s, please read studies about why exercise may help treat Parkinson’s disease, and people with Parkinson’s may benefit from 7 walking strategies.
The study is published in Neurology. One author of the study is Xinyuan Zhang, Ph.D.
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