Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects movement and can lead to other symptoms such as tremors, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordination.
Prodromal Parkinson’s disease (pPD) refers to the early stages of the disease, before the onset of motor symptoms.
There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but lifestyle factors such as diet have been implicated in the disease’s long-lasting neurodegenerative process.
The Mediterranean diet is a dietary pattern that is based on the traditional eating habits of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
The diet is high in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, and includes moderate amounts of fish, poultry, dairy, and red wine. The diet is low in red meat, processed foods, and sugar.
In this study, researchers aimed to examine the associations between adherence to the Mediterranean diet and longitudinal changes in pPD probability and the development of Parkinson’s disease or pPD in older people living in Mediterranean countries.
The researchers used data from the Hellenic Longitudinal Investigation of Aging and Diet (HELIAD) cohort.
It is a population-based study of community-dwelling individuals aged 65 years or older living in rural and semi-urban areas of Greece.
The study included 1,047 participants who did not have Parkinson’s disease or dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) at the start of the study. The participants were followed for an average of 3 years.
The researchers used a detailed food frequency questionnaire to evaluate the participants’ dietary intake and calculate their adherence to the Mediterranean diet.
The adherence score ranged from 0 to 55, with higher scores indicating higher adherence to the diet. The probability of Parkinson’s disease was calculated according to the updated Movement Disorder Society research criteria.
The team found that higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower increase in Parkinson’s disease probability over time.
In other words, people who followed the Mediterranean diet more closely had a lower risk of developing prodromal Parkinson’s disease.
Additionally, participants in the higher quartiles of MeDi adherence had an approximately 60-70% lower risk of developing possible/probable pPD compared to those in the lowest quartile.
The researchers also found that following the Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease or DLB.
For each unit increase in the MeDi score, there was a 9-10% lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease or DLB.
These findings suggest that adherence to the Mediterranean diet may help reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease or pPD in older adults living in Mediterranean countries.
The study also found that following the Mediterranean diet slowed down the progression of prodromal Parkinson’s disease, meaning that people who followed the diet had a lower risk of developing pPD over time.
However, more studies are needed to confirm these findings in other populations.
The research was published in the European Journal of Neurology and conducted by Maria I Maraki et al from Hellenic Mediterranean University.
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