Regularly eating berries may lead to a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease (PD) a new study shows, and fruit in general contain flavonoids that are necessary to ward off the likelihood of developing this ailment.

Flavonoids (both flavonols and flavanols) are most commonly known for their antioxidant activity in vitro. At high experimental concentrations that would not exist in vivo, the antioxidant abilities of flavonoids in vitro are stronger than those of vitamin C and E. Consumers and food manufacturers have become interested in flavonoids for their possible medicinal properties, especially their putative role in prevention of cancers and cardiovascular diseases. Although physiological evidence is not yet established, the beneficial effects of fruits, vegetables, tea, and red wine have sometimes been attributed to flavonoid compounds.

Flavonoids are found in plants and fruits and are also known collectively as vitamin P and citrin. They can also be found in chocolate, and citrus fruits such as grapefruit.

The study involved 49,281 men and 80,336 women. Researchers gave participants questionnaires and used a database to calculate intake amount of flavonoids. They then analyzed the association between flavonoid intakes and risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. They also analyzed consumption of five major sources of foods rich in flavonoids: tea, berries, apples, red wine and oranges or orange juice. The participants were followed for 20 to 22 years.

During that time, 805 people developed Parkinson’s disease. In men, the top 20% who consumed the most flavonoids were about 40% less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than the bottom 20% of male participants who consumed the least amount of flavonoids.

In women, there was no relationship between overall flavonoid consumption and developing Parkinson’s disease. However, when sub-classes of flavonoids were examined, regular consumption of anthocyanins, which are mainly obtained from berries, were found to be associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease in both men and women.

Xiang Gao, MD, PhD, with the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston states:

“This is the first study in humans to examine the association between flavonoids and risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Our findings suggest that flavonoids, specifically a group called anthocyanins, may have neuroprotective effects. If confirmed, flavonoids may be a natural and healthy way to reduce your risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.”

Parkinson’s disease is better understood than most other neurological disorders, in that its main symptoms are known to be caused by loss of a specific group of cells in a specific part of the brain. What is not known, for most cases, is the mechanism that causes those specific cells to be lost. There is little prospect of dramatic new PD treatments expected in a short time frame, but several lines of research are aimed at answering the critical questions. Currently active research directions include the search of new animal models of the disease, and studies of the potential usefulness of gene therapy, stem cells transplants and neuroprotective agents.

There are five major pathways in the brain connecting other brain areas with the basal ganglia. These are known as the motor, oculo-motor, associative, limbic and orbitofrontal circuits, with names indicating the main projection area of each circuit. All of them are affected in PD, and their disruption explains many of the symptoms of the disease since these circuits are involved in a wide variety of functions including movement, attention and learning. Until recently, environmental factors were thought to be wholly responsible for Parkinson’s disease.

Source: Science Daily

Written by Sy Kraft, B.A.