Parkinson’s disease is thought to be the result of oxidative damage of the nerve cells in the brain. Since vitamins E, C and carotenoids are antioxidant nutrients, recent research looked at the relationship of these nutrients to Parkinson’s, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Heli Roy.
Results add to the evidence for consuming antioxidant-rich foods to ward off chronic diseases, like cancer and heart disease, based on the theory that antioxidants protect against free radicals that can damage cells, the LSU AgCenter nutritionist explains.
Two large studies with researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School were used to assess the relationship of these nutrients and the development of Parkinson’s disease: 76,890 women from the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) and 47,331 men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS).
Repeated and validated dietary assessment tools and a food frequency questionnaire were used to assess intake of vitamin E, C and carotenoids and vitamin supplements. The type and brand of vitamin and mineral supplements were recorded.
Dietary data were collected from the women's cohort since 1984 and from the men's since 1986. The studies ended in 1998, and there were 371 new cases of Parkinson's disease (161 in women and 210 in men) by then.
Roy says statistical analysis showed no significant difference in new cases of Parkinson’s in those that consumed dietary supplements of antioxidants versus those that did not. "In contrast, however, higher intake of dietary vitamin E was associated with a significantly lower risk of Parkinson's," says study author Shumin Zhang, M.D.
Similar results were found in two other studies. A study conducted in the Netherlands and reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at the diets of more than 5,000 adults. There was an association between consumption of whole foods containing the antioxidants vitamin E and vitamin C and decreased risk of Alzheimer's.
A stronger association in vitamin E having a protective effect was found in smokers who have an increased risk of the disease. Another study from the United States reported in the Journal also found an association between decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and diets higher in vitamin E. In this study, the group with the highest dietary intake of vitamin E had a 67 percent decreased risk of developing Alzheimer's compared to the group with the lowest intake of vitamin E.
Roy notes that some of the good food sources of vitamin E are wheat germ, almonds, safflower, corn and soybean oils, turnip greens, peanuts, peanut butter, mixed nuts, broccoli and spinach.
The nutritionist advises contacting an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office to learn more about vitamin E. Please visit the Food & Health section of the LSU AgCenter Web site for additional information.
Source: Heli Roy (225) 578-4486, or e-mail.