With 50,000 Americans receiving a Parkinson’s diagnosis every year, finding new ways to help prevent the neurological disorder has never been more important. While genetic research brings scientists closer to a cure each day, a source of prevention may be as close as your backyard.
Eating berries – blackberries, cranberries, strawberries, and blueberries in particular – has recently been linked to a decreased risk for Parkinson’s disease, especially in men. (Still no word on poison berries, though.) The groundbreaking study, published in Neurology, found that women and men who consumed berries at least twice a week had a 25 percent less chance of developing the degenerative disorder.
While the precise relationship between Parkinson’s and a berry-rich diet are unknown, researchers think it may come down to antioxidants. Flavonoids (the antioxidant found in berries, as well as other fruits and vegetables) are believed to protect brain cells from deterioration. In fact, men who had the most flavonoids in their diet (from additional sources such as red wine or dark chocolate) had a 40 percent less chance of developing Parkinson’s. This effect was not duplicated in women.
There is more work to be done, but researcher Dr. Xiang Gao is confident that this newly discovered link is viable, concluding that, “The main message from this study is that berry fruit is associated with lower risk of Parkinson’s disease.”
Besides being packed with flavonoids, berries are also low in calories, chock full of vitamin C and other minerals, and may entertain you with their hip-hop skills. Whether they’re raw, dried, or mixed with a cup of low-fat yogurt, berry season is always a reason to celebrate. Looking for a heartier way to incorporate berries into your diet? Check out this savory wheat berry salad!
Image: Berry Harvest from Parents’ Garden, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from VancityAllie’s photostream.