Men who eat a flavonoid-rich diet are 40% less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease later in life, claims a recent study.
Researchers from Harvard University and the University of East Anglia (UEA) found that those who eat plenty of flavonoid foods, such as red berries, strawberries and apples, significantly reduce their risk of Parkinson’s, due to their neuron-protecting properties.
These findings add to a growing body of evidence that regular consumption of flavonoids have positive benefits on our health.
Recent studies discovered that flavonoid compounds protect against diet-related diseases such as heart disease, hypertension and type-2 diabetes in women.
The study, published in the Neurology journal, involved questioning 130,000 men and women on their diet and lifestyle. After a 20-year follow-up, more than 800 of the participants had developed Parkinson’s disease.
Researchers discovered that male volunteers who had a diet rich in flavonoid foods had a 40% less chance of getting Parkinson’s compared to those who ate little or no flavonoids. In comparison, the study found no link between flavonoid intake and Parkinson’s in women.
Flavonoids are a group of naturally occurring, bioactive compounds found in many plant-based foods. These foods have high levels of anthocyanins- super-strength antioxidants, which have protective qualities in the body, particularly to the neurons in the brain and are mainly found in blackberries, blackcurrants and aubergines. Anthocyanins give fruit and vegetables their purplish colour.
“These exciting findings provide further confirmation that regular consumption of flavonoids can have potential health benefits,” says study author, Dr. Aedin Cassidy.
“This is the first study in humans to look at the associations between the range of flavonoids in the diet and the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and our findings suggest that a sub-class of flavonoids called anthocyanins may have neuroprotective effects.”
Adding to this, Dr. Xiang Gao, fellow study author, said: “Interestingly, anthocyanins and berry fruits, which are rich in anthocyanins, seem to be associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease in pooled analyses.
“Participants who consumed one or more portions of berry fruits each week were around 25% less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease, relative to those who did not eat berry fruits. Given the other potential health effects of berry fruits, such as lowering risk of hypertension as reported in our previous studies, it is good to regularly add these fruits to your diet.”
Parkinson’s disease affects around 127,000 people in the UK and is a progressive neurological condition.
Dr. Kieran Breen from Parkinson’s UK believes that while this discovery is a positive step towards treatment for Parkinson’s, there is still a long way to go to discovering a cure.
“This study raises lots of interesting questions about how diet may influence our risk of Parkinson’s and we welcome any new research that could potentially lead to prevention.
“While these new results look interesting there are still a lot of questions to answer and much more research to do before we really know how important diet might be for people with Parkinson's.”
The different types of flavonoids:
Find these flavonoids in green fruits and vegetables like onion and leeks, apple and broccoli, as well as teas (black and green) and tomatoes.
Citrus fruits are a great source of flavanones.
Look out for these in celery and parsley.
A fun flavonoid found in quite a few fruits like peach and apricot, apple, cherries and grapes. Green tea is rich in catechins as well.
Many soy-based substances contain isoflavones. Get yourself some tofu or soy milk.
These are mainly found in pears, cranberries, cherries, currants and blueberries. And you can wash it all down with that glass of red wine... in moderation of course.