Eating a bowel of berries every week can reduce the chances of developing Parkinson's by a quarter, researchers have claimed.
Men who regularly consume foods rich in naturally occurring flavonoids, such as berries, apples, certain vegetables, tea and red wine, may significantly reduce their risk for developing Parkinson's disease (PD), according to a large-scale study published in the journal Neurology that saw no such effect among women.
In this study, the main protective effect appeared to come from a subclass of flavonoids known as anthocyanins.
The most common source of anthocyanins in the participants' diet were strawberries and blueberries.
The study analysed data from 130,000 men and women over 20 years and found that 800 developed PD in that time.
By analysing their diet, lifestyle and other factors, they concluded that those who ate the most flavonoids were 40 per cent less likely to develop PD than those who ate the least.
When they only looked at berries, it was found that those who ate a portion of berries a week were 25 per cent less likely to develop the disease than those who ate few or no berries.
This is thought to be the first study in humans to show that flavonoids may have neuroprotective effects.
PD is a neurological disease where the death of certain cells in the brain means it does not have enough dopamine, which in turn affects ability to control movement so that it takes longer to do things.
The disease most often develops after the age of 50.
The disease is progressive, so symptoms, such as tremor, rigidity and slowness of movement, gradually get worse with time.
PD is a global phenomenon being recognised in all cultures and is estimated to affect approximately 6.3 million individuals worldwide.
In 2005, approximately 55,000 Australians were diagnosed with PD and almost 9,000 new cases were identified that year.
There is no cure, and very few effective drug therapies.
The study adds weight to the growing body of evidence that regular consumption of certain flavonoids may lower the risk for developing a wide range of human diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, dementia, and some cancers.
While clinical trials are needed to confirm results and determine how important diet might be for people with PD, Professor Aedin Cassidy of the Department of Nutrition, Norwich Medical School at UEA, said:"These exciting findings provide further confirmation that regular consumption of flavonoids can have potential health benefits.
The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.
SOURCES: http://www.neurology.org/content/early/2012/04/04/WNL.0b013e31824f7fc4.abstract?sid=a0ba9a95-9ba6-46e4-8c4c-13de5e331c4fGao X, Cassidy A, Schwarzschild MA, Rimm EB, and Ascherio A
Gao X, Cassidy A, Schwarzschild MA, Rimm EB, and Ascherio A
Habitual intake of dietary flavonoids and risk of Parkinson disease.
Published ahead of print April 4, 2012