Eating strawberries, apples and oranges every other day may help Parkinson’s patients live longer, study suggests
- Pennsylvania University researchers followed 1,250 Parkinson’s sufferers
- They found those who had a diet rich in berries were less likely to die
- Treatment’s for Parkinson’s are focused on easing sufferers’ symptoms
Eating a portion of strawberries every other day can extend the lives of Parkinson’s patients, a study suggests.
Consuming tea, apples and orange juice could also have the same benefits, experts say.
They are all packed full of antioxidants which are believed to help protect brain cells — that normally die off in the disease — from damage.
One of these is flavonoids, which research suggests can help to soothe inflammation and treat a range of conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. They can be found in a variety of foods.
Scientists at Pennsylvania University tracked the diets of 1,250 Parkinson’s sufferers for three decades.
Those who consumed at least 673mg of flavonoids per day, on average, were 70 per cent more likely to be alive by the end of the study.
This is the equivalent to eating about one entire packet of strawberries or six apples per day.
But researchers said the results were ‘exciting’ because they also suggest that just three servings a week could benefit Parkinson’s patients.
And even switching to red wine could help, they claimed, because it also contains high amounts of flavonoids.
Eating three portions of strawberries a week could help Parkinson’s sufferers to live longer, a study has suggested (stock image)
Parkinson’s gradually gets worse over time as more brain cells die, with patients eventually left struggling to complete day-to-day tasks.
It can lead to muscle shaking and stiffness, as well as trouble moving muscles quickly.
Treatment currently focuses on managing symptoms, and there is no cure for the condition.
But sufferers are expected to live to a near-normal age thanks to advances in treatments.
It affects around one in 500 people in the UK and one in 330 in the US, with most patients being in their 50s and over.
Professor Xiang Gao, the epidemiologist who led the study, admitted more research was needed to explain why flavonoids helped to ease the condition.
His study was observational, meaning it did not look at why strawberries and other fruits could have a protective effect on Parkinson’s sufferers.
Professor Gao said: ‘If someone with Parkinson’s is able to add a few servings of berries, apples, oranges and tea to their weekly diets, our results suggest it may be an easy and low-risk way to possibly improve their outcome.
‘And while we do not encourage people who do not currently drink alcohol to start, people who do drink could consider shifting to red wine.’
Parkinson’s patients included in the study had an average age of 72 years and were evenly split between men and women.
They were drawn from major studies that began in 1986, which were then tracked up to June 2018.
All filled in questionnaires on their diets every two to four years, allowing scientists to estimate how many flavonoids they were consuming a day.
Participants were then split into four groups based on their intake — with the lowest consumers taking in 134mg a day, compared to 673mg among the highest.
But the researchers admitted these were ‘extreme’ brackets. And the effects were not as stark among men.
Over the 32 years of the study, a total of 944 people — or 75 per cent — died. Many Parkinson’s patients die with the condition rather than from it.
As well as noticing a difference in survival rates between the two groups based on daily intake, they also looked at whether consuming three portions of berries a week had a protective effect.
Results mirrored those for the other group, also showing patients were less likely to die by the end of the study, compared to people who only consumed one serving a month.
The study, which was published in the journal Neurology, did not account for other life factors such as weight, smoking and socio-economic status.
A wealth of studies has also previously suggested flavonoids can help to protect against Parkinson’s and other diseases.
Another paper by Professor Gao from 2012 also found that eating strawberries cut the risk of men who have Parkinson’s dying by 40 per cent.
WHAT IS PARKINSON’S DISEASE AND WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Broadcaster Jeremy Paxman has revealed he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but what are the causes and symptoms, and how is it treated?
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects parts of the brain.
What are the symptoms?
The NHS says there are three major symptoms, including tremors or shaking, slowness of movement and muscle stiffness.
Other symptoms include problems with balance, loss of smell, nerve pain, excessive sweating and dizziness.
Some people can also experience lack of sleep, excessive production of saliva and problems swallowing, causing malnutrition and dehydration.
What are the early signs?
Symptoms start gradually, sometimes beginning with a barely noticeable tremor in just one part of the body.
In the early stages, people may show little or no expression, and their arms may not swing when they walk.
Speech can also become soft or slurred, with the condition worsening over time.
What are the causes?
Scientists believe a combination of genetic and environmental factors are the cause of Parkinson’s disease.
It occurs after a person experiences loss of nerve cells in a part of their brain.
However, it is not known why the loss of nerve cells associated with the condition takes place.
Scientists say genetics cause about 10 to 15% of Parkinson’s, and can therefore run in families.
Other factors attributed to causing the condition include environmental problems such as pollution, though such links are inconclusive, the NHS says.
How is it diagnosed?
No tests can conclusively show if a person has the disease, but doctors can make a diagnosis based on symptoms, medical history and a physical examination.
A specialist will ask the person to write or draw, walk or speak to check for any common signs of the condition.
They may even check for difficulty making facial expressions and slowness of limb movement.
How many people are affected?
Around 145,000 people live with Parkinson’s disease in the UK.
What happens if someone is diagnosed?
According to Parkinson’s UK, it is a legal requirement to contact the DVLA, as a diagnosed person will need to have a medical or driving assessment.
The organisation also advises people to contact any insurance providers and find out about financial support available.
People are also encouraged to partake in more exercise.
Can it be treated?
Although there is no cure, a number of treatments are available to help reduce the symptoms.
The three main remedies include medication, exercise and therapy, which can help people in different ways.
What medication is available and what are the side effects?
Medication can be helpful in improving the main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, such as shaking and movement problems.
There are three main types which are commonly used, levodopa, dopamine agonist or a MAO-B inhibitor.
Each can affect people in different ways.
The drugs do have some side effects, including impulsive and compulsive behaviour, hallucinations, sleep issues and blood pressure changes.
What therapy is available?
There are several therapies available to those with Parkinson’s through the NHS.
Among them are physiotherapy to reduce muscle stiffness, occupational therapy to help with completing day-to-day tasks and speech and language coaching.
Does this change the way you live?
Most people’s life expectancy will not change a great deal, though more advanced symptoms can lead to increased disability and poor health.
It can also cause some cognitive issues and changes to mood and mental health.
Those with Parkinson’s are encouraged to exercise more often, with scientists saying 2.5 hours of exercise a week is enough to slow the progression of symptoms.
Parkinson’s affects one in 500 people and causes muscle stiffness, slowness of movement, tremors, sleep disturbance, chronic fatigue, an impaired quality of life and can lead to severe disability.
It is a progressive neurological condition that destroys cells in the part of the brain that controls movement.
Sufferers are known to have diminished supplies of dopamine because nerve cells that make it have died.
There is currently no cure and no way of stopping the progression of the disease, but hundreds of scientific trials are underway to try and change that.
The disease claimed the life of boxing legend Muhammad Ali in 2016.
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