Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.
“When James Parkinson first described the classical symptoms of the disease he could hardly foresee the evolution of our understanding over the next two hundred years,” like the role of nutrition. Increasing Parkinson’s disease risk with high dietary intakes of animal fat, iron, mercury, and dairy products, whereas the intake of antioxidants and a plant-based dietary pattern may be protective.
“Plant-based diets are known to preserve body tissues from oxidative stress and inﬂammation, both hallmarks of chronic degenerative diseases” like Parkinson’s. On the contrary, animal-based foods, particularly rich in animal proteins and saturated fats, are correlated with the promotion of neurodegenerative diseases––in addition to some of the leading killers like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc.
Not all plants are necessarily good, though. For example, consider the potential neurotoxicity of graviola, a fruit known as soursop. Consumption of soursop can lower blood pressure and uric acid levels, but may also cause an atypical form of Parkinson’s disease, because the fruit contains neurotoxic compounds. And indeed, population studies do show a link between the overconsumption of soursop with neurodegenerative disease.
Yes, those who follow a predominantly plant-based diet may show the lowest prevalence and incidence of Parkinson’s disease, but plant-based nutrition is not just about reducing the risk, but can be used to manage the disease.
In my video Treating Parkinson’s Disease with Diet, I discussed this case report, in which a diet low in animal fat and including both whole grains every day, as well as one to two cups a day of strawberries, seemed to be effective in reducing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. But there are like 20,000 edible plants out there, and only a limited number of them have been studied for anti-Parkinson’s activity.
One plant that’s gotten a lot of attention is coffee, which may exert a protective eﬀect against the development of Parkinson’s, and may even help slow down the progression of the disease––based on studies like this that show that Parkinson’s patients who drink coffee or caffeinated tea appear to cut their risk of dying prematurely in half. But correlation doesn’t mean causation. You don’t know if caffeine really works until you put it to the test.
Caffeine for the treatment of Parkinson disease: a six-week randomized placebo-controlled double-blind study. The caffeine group was started out at approximately a cup of coffee’s worth of caffeine twice a day, once in the morning and once after lunch, and then increasing it to two cups worth twice a day, which would be like four cups of black tea twice a day or six cups of green. And . . . a significant improvement in Parkinson’s symptoms within three weeks compared to placebo. A cheap, safe, simple treatment for Parkinson’s, though an important limitation was the duration of the study. Caffeine has what’s called a “tachyphylactic” property, meaning its effect tends to diminish over time with repeated use (at least when trying to combat sleepiness), so it would be really nice to see the study repeated over a longer time frame. But there was no such longer study until . . . five years later. Parkinson’s patients were randomized to about two cups of coffee worth of caffeine twice a day for not six weeks, but more than six months, and . . . no benefit over placebo. Drats.
Caffeine did not provide sustained symptomatic benefit after all. So, caffeine may have a short-term benefit, which quickly dissipates. Regardless, caffeine cannot be recommended as symptomatic therapy for parkinsonism.
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