(NaturalNews) A diet high in the antioxidants found in berries may significantly reduce both men and women's risk of developing Parkinson's disease, according to a study conducted by researchers from Harvard University and due to be presented at the 63rd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. The study was partially funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Parkinson's disease is an incurable, degenerative nervous disorder that produces movement-related and cognitive disabilty.
"This is the first study in humans to examine the association between flavonoids and risk of developing Parkinson's disease," author Xiang Gao said. "Our findings suggest that flavonoids, specifically a group called anthocyanins, may have neuroprotective effects. If confirmed, flavonoids may be a natural and healthy way to reduce your risk of developing Parkinson's disease."
The researchers interviewed 49,281 men who had participated in the Health Professional Follow-up Study and 80,336 women who had participated in the Nurses' Health Study about their intake of numerous foods. They then estimated participants' flavonoid intake from their consumption of five high-flavonoid foods: berries, apples, oranges and orange juice, tea, and red wine.
Chocolate is also a high-flavonoid food but was not included in the study.
Participants were followed for between 20 and 22 years, and then flavonoid intake was compared with rates of Parkinson's disease. The researchers found that the 20 percent of men with the highest flavonoid intake were 35 percent less likely to develop Parkinson's disease than the 20 percent of men with the lowest intake. When the researchers looked specifically at the flavonoid group known as anthocyanins, which occur primarily in berries, they found that both men and women with the highest intake were 22 percent less likely to develop Parkinson's disease than those with the lowest intake.
This is not the first health benefit to be linked to flavonoid compounds in food.
"Bioflavonoids are excellent antioxidants found in many plant foods," writes Steve Blake in his book Vitamins and Minerals Demystified.
"As potent antioxidants, they protect us from arterial damage and cancer formation."