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Vegan Diet May Reduce Parkinson's Risk

What the Study Showed

Epidemiological evidence and a review of three clinical studies done in the 1990s indicate that a vegetarian diet free of animal products (known as a vegan diet) reduces a personís risk of developing Parkinsonís disease. This finding is not presented as a conclusive summary of research data, but as a hypothesis that bears further exploration. It appears in a 2001 issue of the journal Medical Hypotheses.

How It Was Done

The three case-control studies that were reviewed point to a clear association between dietary habits and a risk for developing Parkinsonís disease. Two of the three studies implicate animal Fat as the most significant risk factor. In contrast, ingestion of vegetable fat showed no increased association with Parkinson's disease.

The author also examined several population surveys from cultures where a quasi-vegan diet is practiced, including regions of Africa, mainland China, and Japan.

Why It's Important

Previous studies have shown that diets high in animal fat or cholesterol are associated with a substantially increased risk for PD. Given this finding, it makes sense to examine the value of a vegan diet in protecting against the disease.

It remains unclear whether animal fat, compounds carried in animal fat, animal Protein, or some integrated action of several components of animal fat are responsible, but a lifelong vegan diet appears to markedly lower the risk of Parkinson's disease. Vegan diets do tend to be lower in protein, and reducing protein is recommended for controlling Parkinsonís disease, because it supports the action of levodopa, a natural compound that dwindles in the presence of the disease. In fact, replacement levodopa (L-dopa) is manufactured in the laboratory as a medication to treat the disorder.

On an epidemiologic level, Parkinsonís disease was rarely observed worldwide until the advent of widespread consumption of high-fat foods in recent decades. The study author notes that the disease is still relatively rare in cultures where a quasi-vegan diet is practiced. For example, in a Chinese study, one of the largest surveys of this type ever undertaken, more than 3 million people in 29 provinces were screened for Parkinsonís disease. The prevalence of the disease was found to be only one-fifth as high as the lowest rates reported in Europe and the Americas.

It is not known whether a vegan diet might also help in the management of early PD, but the author suggests that this hypothesis is also worth investigating. And certainly, if the author is correct, for people with a family history of Parkinson's, a vegan diet might be a lifestyle choice that could make an important difference in protecting against this serious neurologic disorder.

Source: McCarty, M. Does a Vegan Diet Reduce Risk for Parkinson's Disease? Medical Hypotheses 2001;57(3):318-323.

Date Published: 9/30/2002

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The Meat Free Zone (MFZ) campaign is intended to make the MeatFreeZone logo as recognizable a symbol as the "Smoke Free Zone". The idea was originally conceived  when The WARM Store in Woodstock, NY, was in operation throughout the '90's (Woodstock Animal Rights Movement).  The store was truly a meat free zone as it was the first cruelty-free, Vegan, socially conscious animal rights store in the United States.  Now  that  the Vegan and Vegetarian movements have been growing so rapidly, more and more people are showing concern about the food in their diet and their overall  health and nutrition.  Many people are giving up eating fish, chicken, beef, pork (pigs ), dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream) and eggs.  Headlines of Mad Cow disease, E-coli and salmonella are in the news with greater frequency.  Vegan and vegetarian recipe cookbooks are standard now  in all bookstores and many restaurants have added Vegan and Vegetarian options to their menus. We hope you will help us with the Meat Free Zone campaign by putting the signs up in your homes and workplaces and by spreading them to all the vegetarian and vegan restaurants that you know and frequent.  And someday we will have true "meat free zones" in establishments that serve meat.

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