5 ways to improve Parkinson’s symptoms and outcomes

If you or someone you love has Parkinson’s disease, you need to know the difference diet can make.

Studies shows that the future looks brighter for people with Parkinson’s who follow a healthy diet. But not just any old healthy diet…

There are certain dietary requirements unique to Parkinson’s that don’t necessarily apply to people with other diseases. One of those requirements relates to weight.

Often times, people who are diagnosed with a serious disease make major lifestyle changes, including losing weight. For some people, eating healthier and losing weight soon after a serious diagnosis (like an autoimmune disease) is enough to send the disease into remission.

But the latest research shows that’s not the best path for people with Parkinson’s. Sure, you should eat healthy. But you should also eat plenty and do what you can to keep the weight on…

Weight loss is worse for people with Parkinson’s

In a recent study, researchers from the University of Aberdeen found that weight loss leads to a worse outcome for people with Parkinson’s disease.

The study included 275 people with Parkinson’s for 10 years. Researchers kept a close eye on weight and disease progression. And here’s what they found…

People who lost weight in the early stages of the disease were more likely to develop dementia, become dependent on caretakers and die sooner than people who didn’t lose weight.

Now, it’s not uncommon for people in the early stages of Parkinson’s to lose weight. That’s because certain symptoms of Parkinson’s (like tremors) involve movement and burn calories. It’s also because other symptoms (like gastrointestinal symptoms or difficulty swallowing) make it uncomfortable to eat. Basically, Parkinson’s symptoms make it harder to consume enough calories to maintain your pre-diagnosis weight.

But this study suggests that you should start going above and beyond to keep calorie intake up, because it could mean a longer, healthier, more independent life.

Foods that fight Parkinson’s

Besides keeping a close eye on calorie intake, there are other dietary changes that can improve the outcome of Parkinson’s disease. Here are some of the foods that have the potential to reduce Parkinson’s symptoms:

  1. Foods filled with phytochemicals. Fruits and vegetables that contain a lot of phytochemicals have the potential to keep Parkinson’s symptoms at bay, because they battle brain aging and decline. By fighting free radicals and stopping oxidation in the brain, researchers believe phytochemicals may be able to ward off the chemical processes that lead to parkinsonian symptoms.
  2. Omega-3-rich foods. Omega-3s haven’t been studied much in relation to Parkinson’s, but their importance in brain health is undisputed. They have a brain-protecting effect in other neurodegenerative diseases, and have been shown to protect neurons in lab models of Parkinson’s. One study also showed that omega-3s reduce depression in people with Parkinson’s.
  3. Foods filled with B vitamins. Studies show B vitamin deficiency is higher in people with Parkinson’s disease, and that people with Parkinson’s who have low levels of B vitamins also have worse symptoms. Researchers believe B vitamins have a beneficial effect on Parkinson’s because they reduce homocysteine in the brain, an amino acid that becomes toxic if it accumulates too much.
  4. Caffeinated beverages. Studies show that people who drink caffeinated beverages are less likely to get Parkinson’s disease. But there’s also been some evidence that caffeine can improve Parkinson’s symptoms. One study found that people who took 100 to 200 milligrams of caffeine per day (about two to four cups of coffee) improved their motor symptoms in just six weeks.


  1. Changes in diet may improve life expectancy in Parkinson’s patients — MedicalXpress. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  2. Causes of Weight Loss in Parkinson’s Disease — Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  3. E. Seidl, et al.“The emerging role of nutrition in Parkinson’s disease.” — Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. 2014; 6:36. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2014.00036.
  4. Christine, et al. Abstract S411. — Presented at: American Neurological Association Annual Meeting 2015. September 27-29, 2015; Chicago.
  5. A Cup of Joe May Help Some Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms — American Academy of Neurology. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.