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Strategies to prevent Parkinson's

Posted: Tuesday, Feb 5th, 2013

Dr. Joel Fuhrman
Each year, about 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinsonís disease (PD), which is second only to Alzheimerís as the most common neurodegenerative condition. †Alzheimerís disease primarily affects memory, and PD primarily affects movement.

There is a devastating loss of independence as slow and impaired physical movement interferes with daily activities. Fortunately, risk for PD is primarily environmental and can be greatly reduced with excellent nutrition and lifestyle habits:

1. Avoid pesticide exposure. A large number of epidemiological studies have concluded that pesticide exposure is a major risk factor for PD. To limit your exposure, buy organic produce when possible, avoid household insecticide products, do not drink well water unless properly purified, and minimize your consumption of dairy, meat, and fish (since agricultural pesticides accumulate in the fatty tissues of animals).

2. Supplement with DHA and Vitamin D. Maintaining adequate levels of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA in the brain is an important measure for preventing neurodegeneration in later life. In my experience with patients, I have observed a significant, severe deficiency of DHA in elderly vegan males, and a number of these elderly vegan males developed Parkinsonís disease. †Plus, studies in animals clearly show that supplementation of DHA can alter brain DHA concentrations and produce protective effects in the brain that can reduce the risk of PD.

Vitamin D deficiency and osteoporosis are prevalent in patients with PD. Researchers have not yet studied whether vitamin D deficiency is a contributor to or a consequence of PD, but vitamin D has many vital functions in the human body, and careful attention should be paid to maintaining sufficient vitamin D levels.

3. Base your diet on high-nutrient plant foods. In a recent large prospective study, subjects whose diets included the greatest amounts of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains had a 22 percent decreased risk of PD over the 16-year follow-up period. Natural plant foods provide countless beneficial phytochemicals that work together to support the health of the entire body, including the brain. Plus, oxidative damage plays a significant role in the progression of PD, so eating plenty of high antioxidant, nutrient-dense foods like berries and leafy greens is another important preventive measure.

4. Minimize animal foods. In addition to pesticide exposure, animal products are also a concern because individuals with high intakes of total fat, total calories, saturated fat, cholesterol, and iron have been found to be at increased risk of PD. Dairy consumption in particular is associated PD Ė men who eat large amounts of dairy products have an 80 percent increase in risk of PD. To protect your brain, keep meat and dairy consumption to a minimum.

5. Exercise. Physical activity has favorable effects on the brain, and high levels of physical activity are associated with a significant reduction in risk for PD.

Dr. Fuhrman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat to Live, and a board certified family physician specializing in lifestyle and nutritional medicine. His newest book The End of Diabetes explains how to prevent and reverse type II diabetes, avoid its serious complications, and lose weight in the process. Visit his informative website at DrFuhrman.com. Submit your questions and comments about this column directly to newsquestions@drfuhrman.com

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