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Treating Parkinson’s Disease With Diet

Plant-based diets in general and certain plant foods in particular may be used to successfully treat Parkinson’s disease in part by boosting L-DOPA levels.

March 4, 2013 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited

K. Tanaka, Y. Miyake, W. Fukushima, S. Sasaki, C. Kiyohara, Y. Tsuboi, T. Yamada, T. Oeda, T. Miki, N. Kawamura, N. Sakae, H. Fukuyama, Y. Hirota, M. Nagai. Intake of Japanese and Chinese teas reduces risk of Parkinson's disease. Parkinsonism Relat. Disord. 2011 17(6):446 - 450

N. Palacios, X. Gao, M. L. McCullough, M. A. Schwarzschild, R. Shah, S. Gapstur, A. Ascherio. Caffeine and risk of Parkinson's disease in a large cohort of men and women. Mov. Disord. 2012 27(10):1276 - 1282

R. B. Postuma, A. E. Lang, R. P. Munhoz, K. Charland, A. Pelletier, M. Moscovich, L. Filla, D. Zanatta, S. R. Romenets, R. Altman, R. Chuang, B. Shah. Caffeine for treatment of Parkinson disease: A randomized controlled trial. Neurology 2012 79(7):651 - 658

V. V. Renoudet, P. Costa-Mallen, E. Hopkins. A diet low in animal fat and rich in N-hexacosanol and fisetin is effective in reducing symptoms of Parkinson's disease. J Med Food 2012 15(8):758 - 761

L. Baroni, C. Bonetto, F. Tessan, D. Goldin, L. Cenci, P. Magnanini, G. Zuliani. Pilot dietary study with normoproteic protein-redistributed plant-food diet and motor performance in patients with Parkinson's disease. Nutr Neurosci 2011 14(1):1 - 9

J. H. Pincus, K. M. Barry. Plasma levels of amino acids correlate with motor fluctuations in parkinsonism. Arch. Neurol. 1987 44(10):1006 - 1009

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Images thanks to Stirling Noyes and Elvert Barnes


Caffeine consumption, both in Asian and Western populations, appears to protect against development of Parkinson's, but what if you already have it.  A new study found that giving folks the equivalent of about two cups of coffee a day worth of caffeine significantly improved symptoms of the disease. Of course, there's only so much you can charge for coffee, so drug companies took caffeine and added a few side groups so they could patent it into new drugs ("Preladenant" " Istradefylline"), which appear to work no better than plain caffeine, which is dramatically cheaper and probably safer. Similarly, certain plants, such as berries, and plant-based diets in general may help prevent Parkinson's—whether because of the animal fat or animal protein or the dairy or the mercury or less of the protective anitoxidants, but again, what if you already have it. We had no idea, until recently. There have been successful case reports. Like this one, in which a dietician was struck down with Parkinson’s and she was able to clear most of her symptoms with a plant-based diet rich in strawberries, whole wheat, and brown rice, rich sources of these two phytonutrients. But there hasn't been a formal interventional trial published, until now. At its root, Parkinson's is a dopamine deficiency disease, because of a die-off of dopamine-generating cells in the brain. These cells make dopamine from L-dopa derived from an amino acid in our diet, but just like we saw with the serotonin story, the consumption of animal products blocks with the transport of L-dopa into the brain, crowding it out.  So at first researchers tried what's called a protein redistribution diet. Let's basically only let people eat meat for supper, then when patients are hopefully sleeping by the time the negative effects hit. But researchers didn't consider trying cutting out all animal products altogether until it was discovered that fiber consumption naturally boosts L-dopa levels, so hey, " a plant-based diet, particularly in its vegan variant, is expected to raise levodopa bioavailability and bring some advantages in the management of the disease through two mechanisms: a reduced protein intake and an increased fiber. That's why plant protein is the best, because that's where fiber is found. So they put folks on a strictly vegan diet, keeping beans towards the end of the day and indeed found a significant improvement in symptoms.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Jonathan Hodgson.

To help out on the site please email

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

What about preventing the disease in the first place? See the previous video Preventing Parkinson's Disease With Diet.

The serotonin story I mentioned explaining the crowding out of precursor amino acids at the blood-brain barrier is described in my three-part series The Wrong Way to Boost SerotoninA Better Way to Boost Serotonin, and The Best Way to Boost Serotonin.

More on the risks and benefits of coffee and caffeine in Coffee and Cancer and What About the Caffeine?

And more on what fiber can do for us in videos like:

For more context, check out my associated blog post: Treating Parkinson's Disease with Diet

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • cobalamin

    You forgot about Vitamin A(Retinol,Retinoic Acid,Retinal,Beta-carotene)!

  • ruth

    Thank you so much for this information! Just last night while caring for a parkinson’s patient, I felt, there was more help for him in diet and lifestyle changes and this morning I see this! The suffering is so great for parkinson’s victims! thank you for spreading this! I know it will help a lot of people.

  • Southlander

    I appreciate NUTRITIONFACTS.ORG and learn more and more with each passing day. My most sincere “thanks” and “appreciation”. Don :-))

  • Veganrunner

    Dr Greger thank you all of the wonderful and helpful information you gave my sister Nancy yesterday. She feels more confident with her decision to go vegan as the best treatment. She is now looking for a new doctor who is willing to encourage her choice.

    Thanks again,

  • Thea

    This series on Parkinsons is fascinating. And so important. Thanks!

  • snowhawk

    I was wondering….would this help someone with dementia with Lewy Bodies? Lewy Bodies is similar to Parkinsons. Thank you.

  • JD Mumma

    Those darn persistent vegan facts again! LOL Viva la vegans!

    What about any correlation with prions?

  • Jackie

    It’s wonderful to have your site for facts and information. Thanks, Dr. Greger.

  • suzzy

    Thank you so much for your hard work. Any tips on which foods are high in hexacosanol and fisetin? So far I’ve found strawberries and whole grains but my searching isn’t coming up with anything else. Interesting that my spouse with PD felt the best all day after eating some strawberries and grapes. Coincidence? We ate those before I found this article…

  • Rusti T Hauge

    I wonder if similar steps would help with preventing antipsychotic induced movement disorders?

  • garrtg4

    I have seen some videos by David Perlmutter MD promoting glutathione as a treatment for Parkinsons on Also, glutathione has been touted as a super antioxidant but I do not see it listed in the blog topic index. Am I being led down the primrose or perhaps the Indian gooseberry path
    by this assertion?

  • debbie

    Why wait to eat beans in the evening ?