Mediterranean Diet for Parkinson’s Disease
The Ancient Greeks had an intimate understanding of the concept of food as medicine. They took the debate to the agora, where philosophers and physicians alike considered the topic in depth. They saw nutrition as so much more than mere sustenance and considered what, when and how to eat with great reverence, recognising that the diet was a precondition for the wellness of both body and mind. Diet was used for disease prevention and specific foods were given as medicine in cases of disease.
In the 5th Century BC, the physician Hippocrates, after whom the ‘Hippocratic oath’ taken by all doctors is named, wrote a treatise on the role of nutrition and diet in the treatment of disease. In his collection of medical works, the Corpus Hippocraticum, Hippocrates emphasises the importance of diet in nosology and therapeutics. Many other famous Greek physicians from the ensuing centuries, such as Erasistratus, also discuss the significance of diet for good health.
Plato’s concepts of a healthy diet are as relevant today as they were then, but it has taken nigh on 2,500 years to have them backed by scientific evidence.
The Mediterranean diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. For protein, fish is a staple; dairy and poultry are relied upon less heavily and red meat is to be consumed a few times per month at most. The diet stresses intake of “healthy fats,” such as those in nuts and olive oil and so really draws on the best recommendations for healthy living.
Olive oil is high in the monounsaturated fatty acid oleic acid existing in its triglyceride form, which humans cannot produce and therefore obtain from diet. Oleic acid has also been shown to express anti-inflammatory activities. Reyes et al, found that in the presence of oleic acid, the gene expression of anti-inflammatory macrophages was increased. Macrophages are immune cells that are critical in modulating inflammation and can be polarised to promote or inhibit it, but also have an important role in the removal of excess fatty-acids.
Not only has the Mediterranean diet been successful in improving the symptoms of those with Parkinson’s including mood, fatigue, constipation, urinary, but adopting this diet which is rich in antioxidants and goods fats, provides neuro-protective qualities that can reduce the risk of getting Parkinson’s in later life. Research has also showed that each unit increase in Mediterranean diet score was associated with a 2% decreased probability for prodromal Parkinson’s Disease (early stage of Parkinson’s where the initiation of neuroprotective treatment may alter the disease discourse, improving the of life for patients).