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Editor's e-Note
New research suggests that a healthful diet in middle age may prevent certain nonmotor symptoms that develop at least 10 years before motor symptoms occur in patients with Parkinson’s disease. According to study author Samantha Molsbery, PhD, of Harvard University, the research, published in Neurology, doesn’t point to causation, and further study is needed to determine whether a healthful diet might help prevent Parkinson’s disease or delay its development in individuals who already experience such nonmotor symptoms as depression, daytime fatigue, and constipation.

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— Kate Jackson, editor
e-News Exclusive
Diet and Parkinson’s Disease: What’s the Connection?

While movement problems are the main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, people with the disease often have nonmotor symptoms such as constipation, daytime sleepiness, and depression 10 or more years before movement problems start. A new study suggests that eating a healthy diet in middle age may be linked to having fewer of these preceding symptoms. The study is published in the August 19, 2020, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“While this study does not show cause and effect, it certainly provides yet another reason for getting more vegetables, nuts, and legumes in your diet,” says study author Samantha Molsberry, PhD, of Harvard University in Boston. “More research is needed to determine whether eating a healthy diet could delay or even prevent the development of Parkinson’s disease among people who have these preceding symptoms already.”

The study involved 47,679 people who were asked about their diet every four years starting in the 1980s when they were middle-aged. Then in 2012, people were asked whether they had two conditions that are common in people who are later diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease: constipation and a sleep disorder called rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, which includes acting out dreams during sleep by movement such as flailing arms or shouting or screaming. In 2014–2015, 17,400 of the participants were asked about five more symptoms that can precede Parkinson’s disease: loss of sense of smell, impaired color vision, excessive daytime sleepiness, body pain, and depression.

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