Consuming a plant-based diet may reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease, according to a large-scale UK study – particularly when it comes to older people.
The study, titled Plant-Based Dietary Patterns and Parkinson’s Disease: A Prospective Analysis of the UK Biobank, was published in the journal Movement Disorders.
Researchers at Queen’s University, Belfast, found that diets with higher intakes of vegetables, nuts, and tea are linked with lower Parkinson’s risk.
But little is known about the association between the diet and Parkinson’s, which is a neurodegenerative disorder. Difficulty with movement, tremors, and stiffness characterise the condition.
Parkinson's is characterised by difficulty with movement, tremors, and stiffness. Photo © Alexey Koza via Getty Images
Parkinson’s and a plant-based diet
For their research, the scientists accessed UK Biobank data. This long-term UK study, investigating the influence of genetics and environment on disease development, has more than 500,000 participants.
Of these, some 126,283 were available for their analysis (around 56 per cent were women, with 44 per cent men). Participants were asked about their consumption of around 200 foods and 30 drinks. Over nearly 12 years of follow-up, 577 of the participants were diagnosed with Parkinson’s
Diets comprising the most healthy plant-based foods were associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s.
It’s worth noting that a secondary analysis which adjusted for Parkinson’s risk due to genetic factors, suggested that ‘dietary approaches may benefit only those without genetic risks’.
A healthy plant-based diet can help to reduce the risk from Parkinson's disease. Photo © Charday Penn via Getty Images
Dietary and lifestyle factors
According to the researchers writing in the study: “These results are important to help refine and inform public health messages that consider plant-based diets and provide evidence that simple dietary change has the potential to reduce [Parkinson’s disease] risk.”
They added: “The identification of modifiable [Parkinson’s disease] risk factors such as dietary and lifestyle factors may open new avenues for primary [Parkinson’s disease] prevention.”
And the researchers concluded that: “Our novel study strengthens the knowledge around the health benefits of adhering to healthy plant-based dietary patterns, in this case, providing novel data that higher adherence reduces [Parkinson’s disease] risk.”
Plant-based foods can offer myriad health benefits at any age. Find out how to stay at your best as you age with our guide to Over 50, vegan, and thriving: How to maintain your health on a vegan diet
Featured photo © weyo via Adobe Stock