Parkinson’s patients who eat a portion of strawberries or apples every other day could extend their lives, a new study suggests. Scientists at Pennsylvania University also found drinking tea or orange juice on a regular basis could have a similar effect.
What all of these foodstuffs have in common is that they’re full of antioxidants that are thought to protect brain cells that are usually damaged by the disease. Among them are flavonoids, which are known to soothe inflammation and help with a number of conditions, such as high blood pressure.
Researchers spent 30 years tracking the diets of 1,250 individuals with Parkinson’s for the study. They discovered that those who averaged at least 673mg of flavonoids a day were 70 per cent more likely to still be alive when the research ended.
While that equates to consuming an entire punnet of strawberries or six apples a day, the scientists said three servings a week also show benefits for Parkinson’s patients. As red wine also contains a high flavonoids content, it could also help.
Parkinson’s affects approximately one in 500 people in the UK and is usually diagnosed in people aged 50 or over. It gets worse with age, but there are a number of treatments available to help manage the symptoms, which include shaking and stiffness in the muscles.
While there’s no cure for the condition, advancements in medicine mean those with Parkinson’s can now live to a similar age as those without it. Lifestyle choices, such as eating strawberries and apples regularly, could help to manage Parkinson’s too.
Professor Xiang Gao, the epidemiologist who led the study, 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.”
Those included in the study had an average age of 72 and the gender split was even between men and women. They completed questionnaires detailing their diets every two to four years between 1986 and 2018 to allow scientists to understand how many flavonoids they were consuming daily.
In addition to seeing a difference in survival rates between those who ate a lot of flavonoids, the researchers also looked into whether it had a protective effect. The results backed up previous findings from other studies that flavonoids can protect against Parkinson’s and other diseases.
The effects were found not to be as pronounced in men as women. Other life factors, such as weight, smoking and socio-economic status, were not taken into account in the study. Seeing as berries and apples can contribute to a healthy diet, it could be worth Parkinson’s patients introducing more of these elements to their meals and snacks.