Parkinson’s is a sneaky disease. In many cases it starts with a barely noticeable tremor in one of your hands. But over time it continues to attack your nervous system killing off brain cells until it, not you, is in control of your body.
There isn’t a cure for Parkinson’s yet, but researchers are learning more about it every day. They’ve identified some genetic, environmental and dietary factors that can play a role in developing the disease. And they’ve even begun to pinpoint specific nutrients that could help reduce your risk of developing the devastating disease.
Following are five common foods that could help slash your own risk for Parkinson’s disease.
In a study examining the relationship between fats in the diet and the risk for Parkinson’s disease, Dutch researchers tracked the diets of over 5,200 volunteers for six years. When they crunched the numbers at the end of the six years they found that the folks who ate the most unsaturated fats—such as the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats you find in delicious avocados—had a 30 percent lower risk for developing Parkinson’s disease.
If you’re a coffee drinker we’ve got some good news for you. A number of studies link drinking coffee to lower rates of Parkinson’s. Just make sure it’s a high-test caffeinated version, as the same link hasn’t been found with decaf. Study results vary, but researchers say you may be able to slash your risk of the disease anywhere from 31 to a 61 percent by making coffee a part of your regular routine.
Not a fan of coffee? A Finnish study found a similar link between drinking caffeinated tea and a lower risk of Parkinson’s.
And if you, or someone you care about, has already been diagnosed with the disease, drinking between two to four cups of Joe a day could reduce your symptoms, according to a study published in the journal Neurology.
3. Bell peppers:
Nicotine, a stimulant found in tobacco plants, has a bad reputation because of its connection to cigarettes. Nicotine is the chemical that causes people to become addicted to smoking. But, ironically, it turns out that same chemical could also help lower some folk’s risk of Parkinson’s disease.
Now, let’s be perfectly clear, starting a smoking habit (or not quitting an existing one) is a terrible idea. But you may still be able to take advantage of the nicotine connection by making bell peppers a part of your regular diet.
Bell peppers, which come from the same Solanaceae family as tobacco, appear to also reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease, according to a study published in the Annals of Neurology. More research is needed, but the results are already promising and since bell peppers are delicious making them a part of your regular diet is a no brainer.
Experts say B vitamins can play a role in our risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. In a study out of the Netherlands researchers found that the volunteers with the most vitamin B6 in their diet had far less chance of developing the disease than those with the lowest.
A later study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, confirmed those results when researchers found that participants with low levels of B6 had a significantly increased risk of the disease. In contrast, those whose diets included the most B vitamins—such as the B6, B12 and folate you’ll find in salmon—were far less likely to develop Parkinson’s.
An exciting study from our neighbors to the north in Canada found that foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, like sardines, may help prevent Parkinson’s disease. In the animal study, mice fed a diet high in omega-3s appeared nearly immune to the effects of a toxic compound used in Parkinson’s research that causes the same damage to the brain as the disease.
On the other hand, when the control mice were injected with the compound their dopamine levels plummeted by 50 percent. The researchers say it’s likely the DHA in the omega-3s that’s responsible for the lowered risk. When they took a closer look they found that the DHA had replaced the omega-6s in the brains of the mice on the high omega-3 diet.
And since omega-3s increase dopamine levels, and reduce the neuro-inflammation that’s seen with Parkinson’s disease, they may also slow the development of the disease in people who already have it.
Sardines happen to be one of the most concentrated sources of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA that exists, so making them a part of your regular routine could help you slash your own risk for Parkinson’s disease.