While several studies have accounted for the potential neuroprotective effects that these two diets may have on Alzheimer’s and dementia, the researchers state that this is the first observational study to take Parkinson’s into account.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes a reduced consumption of red and processed meat, in favor of increased fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. The MIND diet combines the pattern of the Mediterranean Diet with the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which was created by NIH researchers.
“The study shows individuals with Parkinson’s disease have a significantly later age of onset if their eating pattern closely aligns with the Mediterranean-type diet,” Dr. Silke Appel-Cresswell of the Pacific Parkinson's Research Centre, the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health and the Division of Neurology in the UBC Faculty of Medicine, said. “The difference shown in the study was up to 17 years later in women and eight years later in men. There is a lack of medications to prevent or delay Parkinson’s disease yet we are optimistic that this new evidence suggests nutrition could potentially delay onset of the disease.”
The MIND diet showed a more significant impact on women, whereas the Mediterranean diet had a more significant impact on men, the researchers noted. While the differences between these two eating patterns are subtle, they could serve as clues to the impacts of specific foods and micronutrients on brain health, the researchers said. Furthermore, differences between the sexes on adherence to these diet plans could provide insights into the reasons for by 60% of those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease are men.
“If we understand the sex differences between the MIND diet and Mediterranean diet, then we might better understand the sex differences that drive Parkinson’s disease in the first place,” lead researcher Avril Metcalfe-Roach, a PhD student at UBC’s Michael Smith Laboratories, said.
"It drives home the connection between the gut and the brain for this disease," Dr. Brett Finlay, professor in the departments of biochemistry and molecular biology, and microbiology and immunology at UBC, added. "It also shows it's not just one disease that healthy eating can affect, but several of these cognitive diseases."
The research team plans to conduct further investigation into the role that the gut microbiome and overall nutrition can affect the brain throughout the course of a lifespan.