Dietary Risk Factors for Neurodegenerative Diseases

By Joel Fuhrman, M.D. www.drfuhrman.com

Studies Show That Careful Attention To Diet Is Essential!

In addition to pesticide exposure, poor diet quality is also an environmental risk factor for Parkinson’s disease (PD).

A recent study of over 120,000 people classified subjects’ overall diets according to the quantity of “Western” (red and processed meat, refined grains, sweets, etc.) vs. “prudent” (fruits, vegetables, legumes, etc.) foods eaten. They found that those who ate the most foods from the “prudent” list had a 22 percent decreased risk of PD over the 16-year follow-up period.48

Subjects with high intakes of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and iron are at increased risk of PD.49

Dairy consumption also is associated with PD. Men who eat large amounts of dairy products have an 80 percent increase in risk of PD. Women who eat large amounts have a 30 percent increase in risk.50

Excess iron, abundant in red meat, can contribute to oxidative damage. High concentrations of iron frequently are found in the brains of PD patients, specifically complexed in alpha-synuclein plaques.51

The dietary risk factors for Alzheimer’s are similar to those for cardiovascular disease.52

Cholesterol is directly involved in beta-amyloid plaque formation, and cholesterol intake is associated with a threefold increase in likelihood of AD.53 A diet higher in vegetables, fruits, and legumes and low in red meat decreases risk of AD by 65 percent.54 High saturated fat intake doubles AD risk, and moderate trans fat intake increases risk two- to threefold.55

Copper is a cofactor for essential chemical reactions involved in energy production, but in excess it can harm the brain. Copper can complex with beta-amyloid and cholesterol in the plaques, characteristic of AD. Copper intake combined with a high-cholesterol, high-saturated-fat diet is associated with greater risk of AD.56,57 Iron, because it can cause oxidative damage, also is associated with AD risk.58 Excess iron and copper most often come from red meat and multivitamin/ mineral supplements. (Healthful diets easily supply adequate and safe amounts.)

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