How does what you eat impact the progression of PD?

Liz Yates Horton PT, DPT, NCS

What you eat is now being shown to be connected to your PD progression. It is now better understood how PD may start in the gut and how there is a relationship between the gut and brain via the vagus nerve. Previous research has shown that consumption of green tea, coffee, and blueberries with avoidance of dairy were associated with a reduced likelihood of being diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.

A wonderful research article was published by Dr. Laura Mischley et al in 2017 entitled "Role of Diet and Nutritional Supplements in Parkinson’s Disease Progression. (full text is available at this link)" In this article she and her colleagues outline what food groups have been shown to be associated with a slower progression of PD and which food groups are associated with a faster progression. 1053 individuals with PD participated in in this study looking at typical assessment measures used in PD along with a food frequency questionnaire to track what types of foods were consumed. This is the first research that has looked at the relationship between progression of PD and food, drink, and nutrition supplements.


The foods that were associated with a slower progression are those of a Mediterranean diet, which have been shown in previous research to have a decreased prevalence along with increased age of diagnosis of PD. These foods were found to be best at slowing down the progression:

- Fresh Fruits and Veggies

- Nuts / seeds

- Fish

- Wine

- Olive Oil

- Coconut oil

- Fresh Herbs

The foods that were found to be linked to a faster progression included:

- Canned fruits and vegetables (it is thought this may be related to the metals in the can material, possibly aluminum and BPA which is often used to coat the inside of food containers)

- Diet Soda and Soda

- Fried Foods

- Dairy (ice cream had the highest link followed by yogurt, cheese, then milk)

- Beef

- Pasta

- Plastic-bottle drinks (again thought to be related to BPA)

- Chicken

- Pork

Nutritional supplements that were shown to slow down the progression included

- coenzyme Q10

- fish oil

Nutritional supplements that were related to a faster progression included:

- iron

Shopping and Consumption Habits that impact progression:

Those who reported getting food from the local farmer's market and focusing on eating organically grown food were found to have a slower progression. Those that had difficulty affording food, especially healthy food, were linked to a faster progression.

This is powerful research as it demonstrates that you have control over the progression of PD. Our hope is that you will focus on what and how you are consuming your food. When you are getting your shopping list together for the week think about these green foods (see below) and how to incorporate more of them into your diet. Check out our weekly recipes which are based on these food groups to help slow the progression. Remember it is progress not perfection!

Focus on the green when meal planning!

Green = slower progression, Red = fast progression


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