The British press seem to be all over this one. I can find The Mail, The Mirror and The Huffington Post, not to mention diet.co.uk and AOL Lifestyle UK. All of them witter on about the “Mediterranean” style diet – rich in fruit, vegetables and fish – that is the healthiest, and which seemed to have a level of protection against Parkinson’s. That’s all fine and dandy, but the research was done in Japan, and the abstract does not mention the Mediterranean at all. The healthier, allegedly protective, diet that the Japanese researchers tested against the Western menu and an intermediate style of eating was actually the traditional Japanese diet.
Maybe it does resemble the Mediterranean diet. But why call a spade a pickaxe?
Anyway, here is the abstract. The study was performed, it seems, for what you might describe as a holistic reason:
Nearly all epidemiologic studies examining the association between the risk of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and diet have focused on single foods and specific nutrients. However, epidemiologic evidence for the association of dietary pattern with PD, namely the measurement of overall diet by considering the cumulative effects of nutrients is extremely limited.
Which makes a lot of sense.
What makes less sense, to me, is that they analysed their subjects’ current diets and compared the diets of the Parkies with the non-Parkies. People’s diets change, and I can imagine that having Parkinson’s could, potentially, be a factor in that change (might you not be less inclined to chop lots of vegetables, and more inclined to buy some of those nasty Western convenience food things at the supermarket? Eating is a problem in itself for many people with Parkinson’s, particularly in the later stages – getting the food in can be difficult, chewing can be difficult. It’s an unfortunate fact, but junk food is easier to eat).
Maybe that question was dealt with in the full text of the paper (which requires payment to view, so I haven’t read it).
Maybe this one was, too. How can you measure the likelihood of getting Parkinson’s from looking at two bunches of people, one of which has the condition and the other of which doesn’t? Presumably the groups were age-matched. I imagine they were both predominately older people. Was there an assumption along the lines of “by the time you get to 60 (or 65, 0r 70, or whatever), you’ll have developed Parkinson’s if you were going to”? There are just so many other factors.
One last point. I really do not mean to belittle this study, but its conclusions do not seem to be completely new. Here is the headline and sub-head from a BBC news article that cropped up when I was trying to find news articles that didn’t refer to the Mediterranean:
Eating a low calorie diet may help to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease, research suggests.
It was published in 2004.
It refers to a long term study done using monkeys, and there is also reference to “some existing evidence that individuals with low calorie, low fat diets may be at reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease”.
There is no doubt that we should all eat a low calorie, Japanese style diet – or at least a diet based on healthier foods – even those of us who already have Parkinson’s. Maybe it will slow down the progression? (Now, there’s a study I’d like to see.) Or maybe it will just make us feel healthier. Win-win situation.