Parkinson’s Disease (PD) affects roughly 500,000 Americans, with 60,000 people added to this number every year. Currently the second most common neurological disease in the U.S, it attacks the nervous system and causes other physical issues throughout the body. Currently there is no known cure, however lifestyle choices and medication can help ease symptoms and make life more comfortable for those suffering with the disease.
There are many suggestions and plans available online to assist with the dietary needs of PD sufferers, however there are constantly new studies being undertaken to try and provide better insight. The US spent $161million in 2016 on PD research, a number that is predicted to rise a further eight million this year. Hopefully, with this investment and developments in technology we will be better able to understand PD and work towards finding treatments and a cure.
Weight changes and life expectancy
A new study suggests that there may be a connection between the life span of PD sufferers and weight loss. The study, conducted in Scotland sampled 187 people with PD, 88 with atypical parkinsonism (sufferers with symptoms similar to PD but caused by other conditions) and a control group of 240 individuals. Over 10 years researchers found that those suffering from PD who lost more than 5% body weight were 2.23 times more likely to develop dementia and 1.23 times more at risk of death.
From this we need to be aware of the importance of keeping weight of PD patients as stable as possible. Weight loss needs to be reversed, this needs to be considered when creating meal plans. Those conducting this study have discussed the need for research into high calorie diets and the effects and benefits of this on PD sufferers. Hopefully this is something that will be investigated in the near future.
Oral health and eating
Recently the importance of oral health in PD sufferers has been highlighted. Changes in speech are associated with PD due to the facial muscles being impacted. This also affects chewing and the ability to eat food, along with tooth loss and aspiration.
It is recommended that patients brush and floss teeth twice daily and have regular visits to a dentist. This will help eliminate most problems and will highlight any issues, such as cavities, loose teeth and abscesses early on. With teeth and gums kept in a good condition it will be easier for patients to eat and hopefully reduce inhalation of food which can lead to problems such as pneumonia.
Diabetes treatments and their effects on PD
A 10 year study in Norway has found a connection between the use of type-2 diabetes drugs GTZ (also known as thiazolidinedione’s) and PD. GTZ’s are approved in the United States for those with diabetes but their effects on PD patients is surprising. Comparing with users of metformin, “GTZ users were 28 percent less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease”.
Unfortunately, the study was conducted on those with diabetes and so cannot be generalized to the wider population. However, it does lead on to potential further research in this area.
Low fat dairy products
A Harvey study conducted over 25 years and involving 129,000 participants found those that developed PD had consumed more dairy products on average than those who did not develop the disease. Eating 3 or more low-fat dairy products a day resulted in a 1% chance of developing Parkinson’s disease over the 25 years, compared to those who ate less than 1 serving per day who had a 0.6% chance.
As with all studies it is important to remember that these findings show a connection but not necessarily a cause. More research into the relationship between low fat dairy products and PD would need to be investigated before dietary requirements were reassessed. It is also worth noting that the risk of developing PD is still significantly low, only 1 in 100 people.
3 or more cups of tea a day are believed to have a positive impact on those suffering with PD. Studies dating back from 2002 until the latest in 2012 have found that either black or green tea provide great antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects. Tested mainly on animals many of the studies found that the consumption of tea had great neurological benefits which could potentially be replicated in those living with PD.
Collated research claimed that tea could “slow age related deficits and neurodegenerative diseases”. Again, further work needs to be conducted to ensure that the results are similar for most people with PD, some trials have already begun.
It is important to keep up with the current research and be aware of new findings. However, do remember to read about the limitations of the study and consider similar work and findings. Much of the information taken from the studies can be very beneficial, however it needs to be well tested and proven before being implemented in all PD patients. The continued investment and findings will hopefully be proven to benefit many of those living with Parkinson’s disease.