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Numerous epidemiological studies have investigated the effects of regional dietary trends on population health and longevity. The Western diet, common in North America, is notorious for its high levels of processed and fried foods, sugar, and red meat; this diet has been linked to increased prevalence and severity of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, and cancer. Conversely, the Mediterranean diet (MeDi) has garnered significant interest because of its association with reduced rates of cancer, CVD, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Parkinson’s disease (PD). Two principal MeDi scoring methods exist: the original MeDi (OMeDi) is characterized in part by its antioxidant-rich mix of vegetables, whole grains, and reduced red meat/dairy and was revised to promote fish intake, whereas the alternative Greek MeDi (GMeDi) pattern uses similar food groups but also promotes potato intake and limits poultry consumption.

Parkinson’s disease

The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet, first published in 2015, attempted to refine the MeDi to minimize cognitive decline. Although the majority of food groups are similar or identical to those found in the MeDi, the MIND diet uniquely rewards leafy green, berry, and poultry intake while minimizing the consumption of fried food and sweets. Milk, potato, and fruit intake are also discarded. The MIND diet has been associated with up to a 54% reduction in AD incidence and has consistently proven to be more beneficial for cognitive health than the MeDi. Despite this success, little research has investigated the effect of the MIND diet on other neurodegenerative diseases.

This new study from University of British Columbia (UBC) researchers suggests a strong correlation between age of onset of PD and dietary habits, suggesting that nutritional strategies may be an effective tool to delay PD onset. Further studies may help to elucidate potential nutrition-related sex-specific pathophysiological mechanisms and differential prevalence rates in PD.

The authors have captured a strong, female-driven correlation between MIND diet adherence and delayed PD onset in a manner similar or superior to the MeDi. The sex specificities presented here are novel and may prove to be an important contributor to the sex differences observed in PD. Given the findings presented here and in previous articles, individuals should be encouraged to eat a diet rich in fresh vegetables, whole grains, and healthy oils while limiting their intake of dairy, red meat, and sugary/processed foods. These dietary habits should be promoted from an early age, as prodromal features of PD and other neurodegenerative disorders can manifest decades before official diagnosis; in addition, it is currently unknown whether there are critical time windows in which dietary habits are particularly influential on brain health. Overall, these data paint a compelling rationale for interventional and animal-based studies that investigate the direct impact of Mediterranean-style diets on PD etiology in a sex specific manner. This study should be repeated in a larger, preferably prospective cohort to confirm these findings. Future work will investigate the effect of the diet on other PD symptoms including gut microbial dysbiosis, disease progression, constipation, cognition, and other factors.

Read this paper at: https://movementdisorders.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/mds.28464

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