Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive neurological disease that is marked by tremors in the resting muscles, rigidity, slowness of movement, impaired balance, and a shuffling gait.
In a study from the University of Aberdeen, scientists found that weight loss in people with Parkinson’s disease leads to decreased life expectancy, increased risk of dementia and more dependency on care.
The team found that closer monitoring for weight loss in Parkinson’s patients and interventions in those who lose weight, such as a high-calorie diet, may improve life expectancy, reduce dementia and reduce dependence on carers.
In the study, researchers followed 275 people with Parkinson’s disease and parkinsonian disorders for up to ten years, monitored patients’ weight and investigated associations between weight loss and outcomes of the disease.
They showed that weight loss is common in Parkinson’s disease and in the parkinsonian disorders and can occur in the early stages of the disease.
Further analysis showed that this early weight loss is associated with a higher risk of becoming dependent (i.e. needing help with activities of daily living), of developing dementia, and of dying.
Although other studies have identified weight loss as a common problem in Parkinson’s disease, this is the first to identify the link between weight loss and death, dementia and dependence on carers.
The team says weight loss is a common problem in Parkinson’s but it wasn’t clear before we did this how common it was, mainly because of biases in previous studies, or what the consequences were of weight loss.
Their hypothesis was that people who are losing weight were going to have adverse outcomes.
The finding that those who lose weight have poorer outcomes is important because reversing weight loss may therefore improve outcomes.
Therefore, it is vital that further research examines whether high-calorie diets will improve outcomes in people with Parkinson’s who lose weight.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies that Parkinson’s disease is on your skin, and results showing MIND and Mediterranean diets could help delay Parkinson’s Disease.
The study was conducted by Dr Angus Macleod et al and published in Neurology.
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