A Diet to Reduce Your Risk, Symptoms and Progression of Parkinson Disease

Posted January 2024
Avocado, radish, EVOO & Dukkah on Corn Thins slices

Parkinson disease is an illness which is becoming more prevalent worldwide. The World Health Organization defines Parkinson disease as ‘a brain condition that causes problems with movement, mental health, sleep, pain, and other health issues. Parkinson disease gets worse over time. There is no cure, but therapies and medicines can reduce symptoms. Common symptoms include tremors, painful muscle contractions and difficulty speaking.’

Parkinson disease occurs when your nerve cells in the basal ganglia, the region in your brain that controls movement, is damaged and dies off. The nerve cells in the basal ganglia play many important roles including the release of dopamine. The result of a lower amount of this chemical being released is impairment of movement.

In addition to the loss of the cells in the basal ganglia, people who have Parkinson disease also have diminished nerve endings that are responsible for the production of the chemical messenger called norepinephrine. This chemical messenger plays a number of roles including controlling your blood pressure and heart rate. A third common symptom of people with Parkinson disease is their brain contains Lewy bodies. These are masses in the brain of protein alpha-synuclein.

The cause of Parkinson disease is still unknown. It is predicted to be the result of a combination of factors including genetics, environmental factors including diet, aging, and chemical exposure.

The role of single nutrients has been investigated into their effects on Parkinson disease and its role in disease risk and progression. A whole diet approach has yet to be investigated. This research provides new insights into the role of a whole diet approach in the risk of developing Parkinson disease, the progression of the disease, and the level of symptoms experienced.

Three whole diet approaches appear to be effective at reducing your risk of developing Parkinson disease and supporting a reduction in both motor and nonmotor symptoms, as well as slowing the progression of Parkinson disease.

 The first two diets linked to these benefits are the Mediterranean diet and Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay diet (MIND). These diets are rich in fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and wholegrain containing foods such as Corn Thins slices, and healthy fats such as seafood and extra virgin olive oil.

The fruits and vegetables may provide these benefits due to their variety of antioxidants and polyphenolic phytochemicals. In addition, fruits, vegetables, and wholegrains provide prebiotic fiber which supports a healthy gut microbiome. As there is a direct link from your gut to your brain, supporting the health of your gut microbiome is essential for brain health. Secondly, the healthy fats help to promote cell repair and brain health. Especially seafood which provides an essential omega-3 fat required for the brain called EPA. EPA can be found in good amounts in fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines.

Both the antioxidants, phytochemicals and healthy fats all assist in reducing chronic inflammation. Neuroinflammation caused by free radicals and oxidative stress is associated with Parkinson disease.

The third diet is the ketogenic diet. A diet which is high in fat, moderate in protein and very low in carbohydrates. A limitation of this dietary pattern is it is difficult to adhere to for the longer term due to be very highly restrictive.  The protective effect of the ketogenic diet still requires more research to investigate the potential effects on the gut microbiome, its ability to be sustained as a lifestyle pattern for eating as well as its long-term effects on Parkinson disease progression and symptoms.


Take home message: As you do not eat single foods or nutrients but a diet it seems logical to use a whole diet approach to help reduce your risk of developing Parkinson disease and to reduce its symptoms and rate of progression. With the current available research, the Mediterranean diet and Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay diet (MIND) are the two best diets to follow.





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Ashleigh Felth…
Accredited Practising Dietitian
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    • Ashleigh Felth…