Berries may lower risk of Parkinsons disease

Boston: Eating a bowlful of berries daily may lower your risk of developing Parkinson`s disease (PD), a new study has claimed.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston also found that people, especially men, who eat other fruits such as apples and oranges besides berries, may further lower their risk of developing the degenerative illness.

PD is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that impairs motor skills, cognitive processes, and other functions. It occurs due to a loss of dopamine neurons and affects about two per cent of people older than age 65 in the world.

The researchers found that berries are rich a class of antioxidants, called flavonoids, which have special neuroprotective effects.

In addition to berries, flavonoids are also found in a variety of foods such as apples, chocolate, and citrus fruits. But all flavonoids don`t have equal effects, according to the researchers.

"This is the first study in humans to examine the association between flavonoids and risk of developing Parkinson`s disease," said Xiang Gao, who led the study.

"Our findings suggest that flavonoids, specifically a group called anthocyanins, may have neuroprotective effects. If confirmed, flavonoids may be a natural and healthy way to reduce your risk of developing Parkinson`s disease."

For their study, the researchers looked at 49,281 men and 80,336 women who filled out detailed questionnaires about their diets.

They used a database to calculate the participants` intake amount of flavonoids. They then analysed the link between flavonoid intakes and risk of developing Parkinson`s disease.

The researchers also analyzed consumption of five major sources of foods rich in flavonoids: tea, berries, apples, red wine and oranges or orange juice.

Over 22 years of follow-up, 805 people developed Parkinson`s disease. Among men, those who consumed the most flavonoids were 40 per cent less likely to develop the illness compared with men who consumed the least amount of flavonoids, the researchers found.

However, among women, there wasn`t any relationship between total flavonoid intake and the risk of developing Parkinson`s, the researchers found.

However, when sub-classes of flavonoids were examined, regular consumption of anthocyanins, which are mainly obtained from berries, were found to be associated with a lower risk of Parkinson`s disease in both men and women.