Eating This Vegetable Twice a Week Can Slash Parkinson's Risk, Study Says
Research has shown that this food contains a chemical beneficial in fighting the disease.
Nearly a million people in the U.S. have Parkinson's disease, per the Parkinson's Foundation, but there's a lot we still don't know about why people develop the condition. According to the National Institute on Aging, some cases of Parkinson's appear to be hereditary, but most are random and not family-based. And there's also not much known about clear risk factors for the disease, aside from age and gender, with men more likely to succumb. However, researchers have delved into ways to lower the general population's risk for Parkinson's, and one study has found a vegetable that could reduce your chances of developing the disease. Read on to find out what you should be adding to your diet.
Eating peppers twice a week can lower your Parkinson's risk.
A 2013 study from the University of Washington (UW) linked peppers to a reduced risk of Parkinson's disease. The study, which was published in the Annals of Neurology journal, analyzed 490 newly diagnosed Parkinson's patients from the UW Neurology Clinic and 644 people with no link to the disease. The researchers found that eating peppers two to four times a week was associated with a 30 percent reduced risk of developing Parkinson's disease.
Eating peppers more often can lower your risk even more.
You don't have to limit yourself to eating peppers twice a week. According to the study, people who ate peppers daily had a 50 percent lower risk of developing Parkinson's disease. Eating peppers any less than twice a week did not have a significant effect, however.
"[This study] provides further evidence of how diet can influence our susceptibility to neurological disease—specifically Parkinson's disease," Kelly Changizi, MD, co-director of the Center for Neuromodulation at the Mount Sinai Parkinson and Movement Disorders Center, told WebMD. She was not involved in the study.
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The researchers also looked at other vegetables to assess their effect on Parkinson's risk.
While the highest risk reduction the researchers found was with peppers, they did find other foods that may also help lower Parkinson's risk. According to the study, the combined consumption of peppers, tomatoes, tomato juice, and potatoes lowered the risk of Parkinson's as well. All of these foods come from the Solanaceae family. But general consumption of vegetables not in the Solanaceae family had no effect on Parkinson's risk, the researchers noted. This included vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and cucumbers.
Peppers contain a chemical that may help fight Parkinson's disease.
The Solanaceae family is a plant family that contains the chemical nicotine. According to the researchers for this study, dietary sources of nicotine may be what provides the protection against Parkinson's disease. Peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes all contain small quantities of nicotine.
But Susan Searles Nielsen, PhD, the study's lead author and a research scientist in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, says further research is needed to confirm this, as high quantities of nicotine can have adverse health consequences like addictiveness, poisoning, and death. Searles Nielsen says there is a chance that a similar but less toxic chemical in peppers may be equally or more protective against Parkinson's disease than nicotine.