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.
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.
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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 Serotonin, A Better Way to Boost Serotonin, and The Best Way to Boost Serotonin.
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
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