A Mediterranean-style diet could delay Parkinson's disease onset by up to 17 years, a new study finds

GettyThe Mediterranean diet prioritises vegetables and olive oil, and wine in moderation.
  • A new study has found a link between eating a Mediterranean-style diet and delayed onset of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Parkinson’s is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that currently has no cure.
  • Researchers assessed people following both the Mediterranean and the very similar MIND diet, both of which focus on vegetables, pulses, seafood, olive oil, and wine in moderation.
  • They found that women who followed the MIND diet the closest developed Parkinson’s symptoms 17.4 years later than those whose adherence was lowest.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Eating a Mediterranean diet is linked to later onset of Parkinson’s Disease, a study has found.

According to researchers at the University of British Columbia, women who follow a Mediterranean-style diet — which was recently named the best diet in the world, and not for the first time — could delay Parkinson’s disease by up to 17.4 years, and 8.4 years for men.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that currently has no cure. It occurs when cells in the brain stop working, and the brain can’t then produce enough of the hormone dopamine to control the body, leading to tremors, impaired muscles, and stiffness. According to Parkinson’s UK, it’s the fastest growing neurological condition in the world.

The researchers studied two diets: the Mediterranean and MIND diets, which are largely similar, both focusing on vegetables, pulses, seafood, olive oil, and wine in moderation.

Equally, both diets encourage minimal consumption of processed and fried foods, red meat, refined grains, added sugars, and saturated fats, as Insider’s Gabby Landsverk reported.

There are small differences between the two though — the MIND diet (which is based on the Mediterranean and DASH diets) emphasises green leafy vegetables, berries, beans, whole grains, and poultry, as Business Insider’s Erin Brodwin reported. It also discourages fruit, milk, and potatoes.

Mediterranean dietLinda Raymond/Getty ImagesThe Mediterranean diet focuses on fish, vegetables, and olive oil.

The researchers found that women reaped the most benefits from the MIND diet, meanwhile, the Mediterranean diet had a greater positive effect on men.

The study assessed 286 Canadian participants in total, 167 of whom had Parkinson’s onset (ie. the first symptoms appearing) in the previous 12 years, and 119 were a control group.

68% of participants with Parkinson’s were men, compared to 39% in the control group, however, men are 1.5 times more likely to have the disease than women, according to Parkinsons.org.

Adherence to the MIND or Mediterranean diet was assessed for each participant, taking into account other health markers, such as exercise, smoking, and diabetes.

The researchers found a correlation between MIND diet adherence and later onset of Parkinson’s, particularly for women. Females who followed the MIND diet the closest were found to have Parkinson’s onset 17.4 years later than those whose adherence was lowest.

It’s important to note that correlation does not mean causation, and the researchers note that there are limitations to the study, but they are excited by the findings.

“The study shows individuals with Parkinson’s disease have a significantly later age of onset if their eating pattern closely aligns with the Mediterranean-type diet. The difference shown in the study was up to 17 years later in women and eight years later in men,” said Dr. Silke Appel-Cresswell of the Pacific Parkinson’s Research Centre, the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, and the Division of Neurology in the UBC Faculty of Medicine.

She continued: “There is a lack of medications to prevent or delay Parkinson’s disease yet we are optimistic that this new evidence suggests nutrition could potentially delay onset of the disease.”

The MIND diet was originally designed to minimise cognitive decline, and it has been linked to the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in the past, but the new study is the first research into the effect of the MIND diet on those with Parkinson’s disease.

However, the research supports a previous study that found that the MIND diet could reduce incidence and delay progression of Parkinson’s disease.

Read more:

The Mediterranean diet was named the best diet for 2021. Here’s how to try it.

The Mediterranean diet could lower the risk of diabetes for overweight women, a study found

Why the Mediterranean diet is touted as one of the best by dietitians

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