April 5, 2012 -- Can two or more servings of blueberries or strawberries a week help lower risk of Parkinson's disease?
Maybe, according to a new study published in Neurology.
Men and women who ate berries two or more times a week were nearly 25% less likely to develop Parkinson's disease than their counterparts who had less than one serving per month.
Exactly how these fruits may help lower risk is not known, but berries are rich in powerful antioxidants -- known as flavonoids -- which may protect brain cells from damage. Flavonoids are found in fruits and vegetables.
When the researchers looked at the data for men and women separately, the real benefit seemed to go to the men, not the women.
Overall, men who had the most flavonoids in their diet -- including sources such as berries, tea, apples, and red wine -- were 40% less likely to develop Parkinson's than those who ate the least.
Women who ate a high amount of flavonoids were no less likely to develop Parkinson's disease than those who ate the least amount, the study showed.
Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurologic disease that occurs when cells in the brain that make dopamine are slowly destroyed. Symptoms include tremors and difficulty with movement and walking.
The new study included more than 130,000 men and women. Of these, more than 800 developed Parkinson's disease during 20 years of follow-up.
"The main message from this study is that berry fruit is associated with lower risk of Parkinson's disease," says researcher Xiang Gao, MD, PhD. He is an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.