Parkinson’s disease is a chronic degenerative disease of the nervous system (or neurological disease) that gradually destroys dopamine neurons, in an area called the “substantia nigra” or “locus niger” of the brain. It is a chronic disease, evolving over several years or several decades, the causes of which are still uncertain. According to Health Insurance, degeneration of neurons is favored first of all by aging, age being the main risk factor even though there are exceptional cases of early-onset Parkinson’s disease. Genetic factors sometimes intervene: 15% of affected people have a family history.
If the role of food in Parkinson’s disease patients is essential to support the patient in order to limit the possible problems inherent in the disease and its treatments, a study confirms that it is also in prevention of the latter. Researchers from the University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy and the Karolinska Institut in Sweden, say in fact in the review Neurology that people who consume high levels of vitamin C and vitamin E, known for their antioxidant powers, in their diet may have a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease than people who receive only small amounts of these nutrients.
An association “stronger when the intake is high”
“Improving diet is a known way to improve overall health, but research into exactly how diet affects the risk of Parkinson’s disease in one person was somewhat mixed, ”explains Prof. Essi Hantikainen, the study’s first author. “Our study revealed than vitamin C and vitamin E were each associated with a 32% lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, and we found that the association may be even stronger with high vitamin C and E intake. ” The antioxidants are nutrients that reduce or prevent cell damage and inflammation by protecting the body against free radicals.
Foods like oranges, strawberries, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts contain vitamin C, while vitamin E is found in spinach, collard greens, in pumpkin and in nuts like almonds and peanuts. In this study, researchers hypothesize that antioxidants may help counter unstable molecules and the resulting oxidative stress that can lead to loss of dopamine, the deficiency of this hormone being the characteristic of Parkinson’s disease. To verify this, they followed 41,058 adults in Sweden for an average of 18 years, none of whom had Parkinson’s disease at the start of the study period.
A similar beneficial effect for these vitamins
Each participant completed a questionnaire at the start of the study about their medical history and lifestyle factors like diet and physical exercise which allowed the scientific team to calculate their body mass index (BMI) and their levels of physical activity. Participants were also asked how often they had consumed various foods and drinks in the past year, including portion sizes. However, supplements in vitamins and minerals were not taken into account due to insufficient information on the brands, dosage and frequency of taking these supplements.
For vitamin consumption, participants were divided into three groups: those with a high intake, those with a moderate intake, and those with a low intake. During the study, 465 people were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. For vitamin C, the researchers found a rate of 64 cases in the group that consumed the highest amounts against 132 cases in the group that consumed very little. After adjusting for factors like age, gender, BMI, and physical activity, people in the highest drinking group had a 32% lower risk Parkinson’s disease than those in the lowest consumer group.
Learn more about the optimal recommended amounts
For vitamin E, the researchers found a rate of 67 cases of Parkinson’s disease in the group that consumed the highest amounts versus 110 cases in the group that consumed the lowest amounts. After adjusting for the same factors, people in the 1st group had a 32% lower risk of Parkinson’s disease than those in the second group. “A healthy lifestyle is known to be beneficial for health, but it was not known whether vitamins in our diet are associated with Parkinson’s disease. We found a link between vitamins C and E and a later risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, ”the researchers note.
The latter nonetheless conclude on the fact that “more research is needed to study the exact quantitiesof vitamins C and E which may be of greatest benefit in reducing the risk of Parkinson’s disease. The study also had its limitations, firstly the fact that participants reported what they had eaten in the previous year based on their memory, rather than having their diet closely monitored. In addition, diets were only evaluated once at the start of the study, so any changes during the study were not recorded. According to Health Insurance, Parkinson’s disease is the second neurodegenerative disease most common in France after Alzheimer’s disease.