Nutrition & Parkinson’s

May 6, 2023

We’ve recently had many requests for a show on Parkinson’s disease, a progressive brain disorder that affects movement, balance, coordination, speech, mental changes, sleep problems, and memory issues. There is often both a genetic connection and an environmental connection involved in getting the disease as well as the progression of the disease. In this show, we’ll share how the role nutrition plays in both the neuroprotection and the neurodegeneration of brain health.

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LEAH: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition, brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. I am Leah Kleinschrodt. I'm a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, and I have been working in the field of nutrition for the past six years. I teach nutrition classes in our Woodbury office, and I also work individually with clients either in person or via Zoom or on the phone. And the other week I worked one-on-one with a gal who lives in upstate New York. She is a caregiver for her husband, and especially the last oh, six to eight months or so, she really had had to kind of take the helm at the house and had to put her own needs on the back burner for a while just to kind of get everything stable with her husband's health.

But she had her own things that needed attention too. So she decided she wanted to prioritize nutrition again, and she contacted us. We got an appointment with her and we just really had to work with her on creating a simple, straightforward plan that felt doable for her so that she could be freer to attend to all her other responsibilities.

BRITNI: That's great. She was making herself a priority.

LEAH: Right, exactly. And again, we oftentimes we think about self-care as, as bubble baths and massages and stuff like that, but good nutrition is one of the best self-care tools out there. And you notice when it's gone.


LEAH: You notice when it's not there anymore, when you're really on the struggle bus with that. So yes. So she was in upstate New York, but I've had clients also from Florida, Idaho. And every once in a while an international client will come through. That's kind of fun. Right?

BRITNI: That's fun.

LEAH: Yeah. So I, you know, I remember, oh, I had an Australia client once.

BRITNI: So did I.

LEAH: Good. Yeah.


LEAH: So it's kind of fun when you get some different areas of the world and different viewpoints come in too. And then even some of our local clients prefer, prefer virtual appointments. You don't have the commute. You can do it at home in your sweatpants; while other people really still want that in person, like face-to-face connection. We can do either one. And I always tell my clients like, don't put on jeans and get all dressed up on my part. Like, do your sweatpants. Do whatever is comfortable for you. Because when you're comfortable, that's when you're going to learn.


LEAH: That's when you're going to be able to absorb information.

BRITNI: That's so true.

LEAH: Yeah. So leaping into our topic this morning, we have had several requests lately to do a Dishing Up Nutrition show about a specific disease. It's a neurodegenerative disease called Parkinson's disease. So our listeners, people have been requesting they want to know a little bit more about Parkinson's and how nutrition and lifestyle habits are related to this disease.

It is a very interesting topic. It's also very complex. You and I were talking about that, Britni, right; of like, there's so many different directions we can go. There's a lot of aspects that nutrition and lifestyle can help with with this particular condition. So this morning we want to start with some basic information, kind of give you a broad overview and just kind of start doing some little deeper dives into some specific areas.

But we do have plans to do additional shows dedicated to brain health, nerve health, how do we take care of our bodies? How do we help our loved ones who care for people with these diseases? So stay tuned listeners, we've got a lot of information we're going to cover in this show, but also know we've got things on the docket for future shows to do more deep dives into specific areas. So you've heard her voice now of a couple of times. Let me introduce Britni Vincent, who's also on the show with me this morning.

BRITNI: Good morning. You know, I have had a couple clients over the years with Parkinson's disease and one that I have seen regularly, I think for a couple years now. And this is such an interesting topic, and like you said, we're going to give some really great basic information today to, to get people started, get people thinking about it.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

And before we do that, I just want to talk a little bit about what is Parkinson's disease? So like you said, Leah, it is a neurodegenerative disease. It is the second most common second to Alzheimer's. And it is a disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement often, including tremors and nerve damage in the brain happens and that causes dopamine levels to drop leading to the symptoms of Parkinson's.

LEAH: Mm-Hmm. Yeah. And I, you mentioned Britni, it's the major symptoms are those motor symptoms, the movement symptoms, tremors, muscle stiffness. Movements can be slowed down or balance gets off, coordination and balance gets off. So sometimes there's the fall risk and things like that. And there's other symptoms actually that creep in there as well; not just the motor symptoms, but there's others that you know, and like you, I've worked with a handful of people who have Parkinson's.

And some of the other things that we've talked about before is like digestion really slows down. So then feelings of fullness happen very early with eating or constipation can happen. Mental symptoms like depression and anxiety go up. There can be difficulty with swallowing and chewing and, and stuff with that. You know, the oral movements, basically urinary problems. There can be loss of smell. So there can be a whole host of other symptoms that go along with Parkinson's. The movement ones are the big ones, but we, there's a lot of other things that kind of trickle in there also.

Are there potential causes that can be linked to Parkinson’s Disease?

BRITNI: Yeah. There is. And I think, you know, we can help a lot just to managing many of those symptoms, especially like you said, the slower digestive tract. And so several research studies there, they have found that there is often a genetic susceptibility. So perhaps another family member had experienced Parkinson's, and in addition to this genetic susceptibility, there's often some sort of environmental factor or toxin that plays a role in the cause of the disease.

So what are some of these environmental factors? One study found that a greater consumption of alcohol increased the risk of getting Parkinson's. It's been suggested by a lot of research that pesticides and herbicides may contribute to the development of Parkinson's.

LEAH: Yes.

BRITNI: And another study found that eating a diet of processed food was associated with an increased risk of Parkinson's. And what is a diet of processed food? So that would be, you know, a bowl of cereal, toast and juice for breakfast, fast food for lunch, a candy bar for a snack, maybe pizza for dinner. Those would all be processed food meals and snacks; all high in sugar and really low in nutrients.

LEAH: Mm-Hmm. Yeah. Longtime listeners of Dishing Up Nutrition know those foods well, know our stance on those, right? So that's not new information, but it might be new information for someone who's tuning in just for the first time or the first couple of times here. So there is often that genetic connection and an environmental connection involved in both getting Parkinson's, but then how quickly or how slowly that disease progresses.

And that is the unfortunate thing about Parkinson's, right is it's, it starts mild, it tends to worsen over time. And unfortunately there's, there's no cure. There's again, medications and some things we can do to help manage things or slow it down, but there's no cure at this point. So we do what we can with the tools that we have.


LEAH: And because of the environmental factors that are involved in the majority of the cases in Parkinson's, you know, we as nutritionists kind of want to help own that role of how diet and nutrition can play a role in this as well, both in the neuroprotection, but, and also the neurodegeneration of the brain and the nervous system.

BRITNI: All right. Those are a couple of big words.

LEAH: Yes. They are many syllables.

BRITNI: Let's just talk about what do they mean? Well, a neurodegenerative disease occurs when the nerve cells in the brain or in the peripheral nervous system start to lose function. And over time, these cells will die. And then lack of function occurs as a result of that.

LEAH: Mm-Hmm. Yep. Yep. So that's neurodegeneration. Then when we think, what does it mean if something is neuroprotective, the opposite side? So this means that something preserves the structure and or the function of those nerve cells both in the brain, but also those nerve cells in other areas of the body. So that one seems a little more intuitive. You think neuroprotective, it is protective for the brain. It is protective for those little neurons, for those nerve cells. And that's, that's kind of how we want to try to stack the deck. Right? It's more in the, in the favor of neuroprotection versus the degeneration part.

BRITNI: Absolutely.

LEAH: Yeah. So I think that's a great segue into our break. We will continue to talk about, again, what are the things that degenerate our nerves? What are the things that protect our nerves on the other side of break. So you are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness, and today we are discussing the nutrition connection to Parkinson's disease. And just a question for our listeners, have you ever thought about how nutrition or the lack of nutrition could affect your movement, your moods, your memory, or that risk for a neurodegenerative disease? If not, we've got more information for you. So stay tuned.


Consumption of healthy fat is supportive for brain health

BRITNI: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. In our classes, we often learn that 60% of the solid mass in your brain is actually made up of fat.

LEAH: Who'd have thought?

BRITNI: I know. I, such an interesting little factoid. So as you can imagine, for good brain health, it is so important to be eating natural fats and avoiding those refined oils. And good brain fats, that would be butter, olive oil, avocado oil, olives, nuts, you know, full fat dairy. Even bacon grease could fit right in there too.

LEAH: Yeah. I think as Melanie would say, nobody's suffering when you're doing something like that.


LEAH: I love that.

Vitamin D is protective for the brain and nervous system

BRITNI: So before break you were talking about neuroprotection and what, and then you were going to dive into vitamin D.

LEAH: Yeah, exactly. That's one of the, one of the first and foremost nutrients that I think of as being anti-inflammatory, but protective for the brain and the nervous system is that vitamin D. You know, there's a plethora of research out there that shows vitamin D reduces the injury or kind of reduces symptoms along with neurological injury or neurotoxicity, again, like basically damage to your nerve cells and to your brain cells.

So vitamin D is, is helpful for reducing damage to those brain cells in a variety, I mean, this is done in animal studies. This is done in humans. I mean, lots of research around this. And to put it in simple terms, our brain and our nervous system need adequate vitamin D to protect it from the toxins in our environment.

And so that begs the question, what is adequate? And we'll, we'll, we'll talk some numbers here in just a minute. And it's, again, it's something we think about, especially with Parkinson's disease, but also other neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and MS. Oftentimes people with these conditions tend to run low in vitamin D and that can be for a variety of reasons.

So that is definitely one thing. I mean, here in Minnesota, I ask all my clients about it, about vitamin D level. But especially if they have neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune diseases, anything like that. I ask about what is your vitamin D level? Do you, are you supplementing with vitamin D? Cause it's such a powerful anti-inflammatory nutrient.

BRITNI: Yeah. It really is. So again, what is an adequate vitamin D level? I mean, first we really encourage everybody to get your vitamin D checked annually.

LEAH: Mm-Hmm. At least annually.

BRITNI: If you have a chronic illness, I think it would be even more beneficial to get it done every six months. And here's what Dr. Perlmutter recommends. And Dr. Perlmutter if you're wondering who he is, he is a board certified neurologist and co-founder of the Perlmutter Brain Foundation. He's author of many books and his own father, who was also a doctor, suffered from Parkinson's. So he definitely has a special interest in the topic.

LEAH: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

BRITNI: So Dr. Perlmutter, he encourages patients to have a vitamin D level at 50 or above. So 30 is just not adequate.

LEAH: Right.

BRITNI: 70 to 80 is ideal because again, vitamin D protects the brain and the nerves from damage caused by many different toxins in the environment. And so ask specifically what your vitamin D is like if they say you're good, well…

LEAH: What does good mean?

BRITNI: Exactly. Yeah. Find out that number.

LEAH: Yep. I a hundred percent agree with you there, Britni. And that again, most labs, most conventional labs that I've seen, yes. Like that cut off for the low end is 30.


LEAH: So if you're under 30, they'll say you're deficient. But if you're 30 or 31 or 32, it's like, great job, you're adequate. And we would say like, okay, great. You're not in the dumps of vitamin D, but we need to do better. We need for that little extra boost, that extra immune boost, neuroprotective boost, we want that to be more 50, 60, 80, something along those lines.


LEAH: And so other, there's other studies that report that vitamin D deficiency is often found in patients with Parkinson's. We understand again that there's frequently very toxic substances in the environment or for some people in the workplace, some people are, are exposed to a lot of things in the workplace that could really increase their risk or even potentially cause Parkinson's.

So today we want to look mainly at the role nutrition or the lack of nutrition can play in the neurodegeneration and that breakdown of brain cells and function and, and how certain nutrients are neuroprotective. So again, we think about adequate vitamin D as being one of those neuroprotective vitamins that that help protect that brain. And then the, some of the things that might degenerate that brain as alcohol, drugs. I mean the, the list could go on.

BRITNI: So what do we, what do people do if you get your lab back and your levels are not optimal? Which I would say are the majority of people.

LEAH: Mm-Hmm. Yeah. Yeah. I've had clients in Florida even that you like they're not taking anything. We get their vitamin D done. And it's at 25 or 30 or again like right at that borderline. So yeah. So honestly, usually what I think, and you can tell me your thoughts Britni, of like how, what are we looking at in terms of getting vitamin D? So wherever we can we get outside.


LEAH: Get some sun exposure on our skin. Being out in nature and being outdoors has its own benefits. But vitamin D is mostly coming from sunlight from that UV light. If you're up here in Minnesota like us, that's not a reality for a big part of the year. So supplementation is often necessary to get those levels up and to keep them up year round.

So I tend to think for clients, you know, 4,000 to 5,000 IUs, especially in the winter of of doing some supplementation in there is usually a good ballpark for most people. And in the summer, maybe some people can get those levels up just by being outside because their schedule allows it. Others might still need to supplement a thousand, 2000 IUs during the summer just to again stabilize those numbers even during the summer months, even when it's warm and sunny out.

BRITNI: Yeah. That's great. And if you find out you're low and you either increase your supplementation or you just start to supplement, I would recommend getting that rechecked in a few months.

LEAH: Yep.

BRITNI: Because some people need, the 5,000 is adequate to get their levels in that optimal range. Some people need 7,000. Some people need 10,000. So you really want to recheck to find what that that great dosage is for you. And then a lot of people, like you said, summer months, a lot of people think oh it's summer, I don't need to do vitamin D.

LEAH: Yep.

BRITNI: So my understanding is to get enough vitamin D from the sun, you're out in the middle of the day, no sunscreen on, most of your skin showing for about 10 to 20 minutes.

LEAH: Alright, realistically, who's doing that?

BRITNI: Not many people are out in their bathing suits over their lunch hour. Right? So a lot of, I mean I know myself, I just take the same amount all year round.

LEAH: Sure. Yep. Makes a lot of sense.

BRITNI: That's something else to consider.

LEAH: Yeah. Makes a lot of sense for sure. And we can think about vitamin D as being like a superman.


Refined fats are harmful for the brain

LEAH: It puts up that shield and it helps protect us from those harmful toxins that are in our environment. So we do need to take our second break. We will continue to talk about neuroprotective nutrients on the other side of break. So you are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. As we said before, the right kinds of fats are super important for good brain health and function. First of all, we don't want to do low fat eating either because that does not support good brain function and we're trying to stay away from more of the refined oils, vegetable oils, soybean oils, canola oils. So we'll be back on the other end to address this more.


BRITNI: Welcome back Dishing Up Nutrition. As Leah mentioned before, those refined factory fats, they are just not supportive for your brain. What foods do you find these refined oils in? You know, pizza, crackers, fast food, French fries, candy bars, chips, microwave popcorn. I mean basically any processed food. But also in like mayonnaise or salad dressings.

LEAH: Yeah.

BRITNI: So they are sneaky. Definitely, you know, look at the label of every food that you're going to buy at the grocery store and remember that eating, you know, eating these refined factory fats, it's just risky behavior. It does not serve your body well.

LEAH: Right. And if there are other options, better options out there, it's like why not when you run out of the other stuff like upgrade.

BRITNI: Totally.

LEAH: Like buy the next best thing when you're able to.


LEAH: And you're doing your body, you're doing your brain a favor. Yeah. So we, you know, we lingered on vitamin D for a while before break and I think we summarized just saying vitamin D, think of that as one of your superman nutrients, your superman vitamins because it helps us put up that shield against toxins and other things that can harm us in our environment.

Neuroprotective habit: eat fruits and vegetables

So let's talk about what are some other habits that we can incorporate into our daily life that will be protective for those nerves; neuroprotective. So here's one thing we say all the time, but eat more fruits and vegetables. And why you might ask? There are phytochemicals basically little plant compounds in fruits and vegetables that slow down aging and actually slow the progression of Parkinson's. There is epidemiological research out there and that just means they're trying to link things together of like what could be associated with a, you know, A versus B? What they find is that high intakes of fruits and vegetables and fish are associated with a decreased risk of developing Parkinson's.

BRITNI: And, you know, most fruits and vegetables, they are rich source of antioxidants like and then supply us with a variety of different vitamins like A, vitamin B, C and E, which are found to be low in many patients that have Parkinson's.

Ideas of how to incorporate more vegetables

So how do you get fruits and vegetables into your diet? You know, I have some clients that say I just don't like vegetables.

LEAH: Yep. Mm-Hmm.

BRITNI: And you know, maybe they're thinking of just a canned vegetable or maybe they haven't tried a variety of different vegetables or tried different ways of cooking them. So here are some suggestions. I, one way that I have gotten a lot of clients to eat more vegetables is by roasting them.

LEAH: Yum.  

BRITNI: It provides a totally different flavor. You know, you might not like raw cauliflower but you might love roasted cauliflower for instance. So you can, most vegetables do great by roasting them. Just throw it on some parchment paper on your sheet pan, some avocado oil is great for higher temperatures, whatever seasoning you want. I don't know. I do mine at like 375.

And my some favorites at my house are roasted cauliflower, roasted potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes. You could just simply steam your vegetables. Put some butter on it and salt and pepper. What are some ways that you like to eat your vegetables?

LEAH: Oh yeah. I mean I would say ever since I had kids it, I need to eliminate extra steps between the refrigerator and my plate.


LEAH: So, so I, what I found especially at lunches was yeah because I just needed to kind of get something quick and move on with my day that I was, lunch was a time for me I was falling short in vegetables. So I just had to really make a concerted effort to buy a variety of raw vegetables. And that was something that all I had to do was maybe just rinse it off and then it was on my plate and then I could eat it.

Because for me it just needed to be that simple. So cherry tomatoes are make it easy. Baby cucumbers: love those. And my daughter Carli loves to nibble on those as well. You know, baby carrots. I'm trying to think what else. Broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas, the little mini bell peppers. Those, I love peppers so sometimes I don't want to waste, I don’t want to cut them up necessarily. So I love the mini ones because you just bite into those and eat around the seeds and stuff like that.

But another way I try to kind of just boost up my meals or get extra veggies in is just adding the veggies into something I'm already making. So if I'm doing a soup, a chili, anything like that, so that's where extra handfuls of spinach or some kind of green goes in there because they just kind of wilt down into nothing. Right?


LEAH: Or riced cauliflower is an easy way to do that. I'll, I took Britni, you were the one who put this in my head, but putting frozen riced cauliflower into a smoothie.


LEAH: I love doing that cause it's kind of like half ice substitute but also get some of that good vegetable in there. So I try to look for those opportunities of, all right, what am I already cooking and how can I just level up a little bit or add a little extra than the recipe calls for or the greens is an easy way I think to just let it meld down into that, into that dish and you barely notice that it's there. The flavor, it doesn't affect the flavor at all. So yeah. Like there's, depending on the client, there's lots of different ways we can go about it. Right?

BRITNI: Those are some really great ideas.

LEAH: Yeah.

BRITNI: And there's nothing wrong with frozen vegetables.

LEAH: Absolutely not.


LEAH: Yeah.

BRITNI: Yeah. Plain frozen vegetables are are great and for some people just keep it super simple.

LEAH: Yep. That's another trick for me too is like we always have a variety of frozen vegetables in the freezer ready to go. They just need to be heated up or again thrown into a dish and sometimes yeah, you just need to eliminate more of the steps from the fridge or the freezer onto your plate. So yeah. So those are ways that we can get some of those more colorful food items in.

Eliminate processed carbohydrates to reduce inflammation

Again, let's reiterate why it's important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables instead of, again, like when we think carbs we tend to think, hey, it's okay let's do the breads, the cereals, the pizza, pasta, pancakes, things like that. Again, it comes for the nutrients in the vegetables. It's those nutrients, it's those vitamins, those minerals or those little plant compounds that act as antioxidants that put out the fires of inflammation. They help control that brain inflammation. Those are what we're looking for when we're saying let's get fruits and vegetables on your plate.

We want to try to crowd out some of the more processed carbohydrates. Those are the things that lead to more inflammation because they, again, they are kind of more or less adding to more sugar in the body, but they're also not giving us the nutrients or the things that we need to neutralize that sugar. And brain inflammation is everything when it comes to Parkinson's and MS and epilepsy and Alzheimer's and depression, anxiety. So the better we can keep our brain health, the less inflamed we can keep our brain, the better off things are going to be.

And the curious thing is people, we don't notice inflammation in the brain often until it is too late, until you get that diagnosis or until the symptoms become really noticeable because we don't feel pain in the brain. Like the brain does not have pain receptors. So we don't feel that pain like we would feel knee pain or back pain or like a migraine or you know, something along those lines.

So we have no, we don't have some of those early warning systems in place that we're damaging the nerve cells or that we're, you know, potentially we're on the path for more neurological damage. Our tiny little nerve cells, they're so small, they're very fragile and so they're very susceptible to even a little bit of inflammation. So on Dishing Up Nutrition, we do talk about how inflammatory sugar is, how inflammatory alcohol is. Same with pizza. So when you eat these foods, you know, do you ever stop to think like, okay, am I risking my brain? Am I risking my nerves? Am I risking kind of potentially being at more risk for some of these neurodegenerative diseases?

I know for a lot of people that's not the way we think. We're thinking a little bit more in the short term, but just know you're not alone in that sense. So that's where on shows like this or when we're working one-on-one with clients, we just try to help people expand that line of thought a little bit more, think a little bit more about the future or just the good we're doing when we're trying to put out those fires of inflammation in the body.

BRITNI: That's a great, great points. You know, back to Dr. Perlmutter. So he has a pretty popular book out called Grain Brain. And in that book he describes that when we eat manmade processed carbs, we are creating a gradual corrosion on our tissue. And when this corrosion or resting gets out of control, our body and brain can just not stay healthy and we could experience joint pain, digestive issues, headaches, depression, and then more serious diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. So what can we do to reduce the oxidative stress and inflammation? You know, one solution is to eat those fruits and vegetables we've been talking about because they contain antioxidants like vitamin C, A and E.

LEAH: Mm-Hmm. Yeah. I think it's interesting when you use the word like corrosion like Dr. Perlmutter said or oxidation. Think about that as like your, the rust on your car. Right? It's kind of like you're rusting from the inside out when you have a, a lot of inflammation in your body.

BRITNI: Yeah. Yeah.

LEAH: And that's what we're trying to prevent with these colorful fruits and vegetables, by eating good sources of protein. We've mentioned fats a few times now by, you know, we want good healthy fats; fats that work with our cells instead of against our cells. Because we're trying to, again, we're, we're all going to rust to some level from the inside out, but we're trying to minimize that. And we're trying to prevent some of that damage just by changing the way that we eat. Yes.

Omega-3 fats are neuroprotective

So we do have to take our third break. We will come back on the other side, continue that discussion about other nutrients and things that can protect our nerves, protect our cells, and keep us from that rusting process. So you're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. There are other fats that are neuroprotective. Fats found in wild caught fish such as salmon, halibut, sardines, and mackerel. And maybe some of you are familiar with this particular fatty acid, but these would be our omega-3 fatty acids. So these are found in cold water fatty fish, but for none of, for the fish eaters out there, that's great. Other people want to stay away from fish. Maybe a supplement would be more your route. So with a fish oil supplement, we would recommend adding two to four soft gels daily and specifically our Omega-3 1000 supplement. And that helps reduce inflammation and helps support brain health. And we'll be right back.


BRITNI: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. If you want to learn more about nutrition and how nutrition can support not only your body but also your brain, like we've been talking about today, I suggest you sign up for Nutrition for Weight Loss Foundations class, and that is being offered the first few days of May at all of our six locations, and several times in a Zoom format. You can take these 12 classes in person or via Zoom. I am teaching in Woodbury on Tuesdays. I would love to see you there. And you can check our or give us a call at (651) 699-3438 and you can talk to somebody more about it.

Sign Up for Nutrition 4 Weight Loss Foundations

LEAH: Mm-Hmm. Yep. They start this week. It's not too late. Or if you're on the fence. Give us a call and the front desk gals would be help, happy to help you out or steer you in the right direction. So before we went to break, Britni, you were just doing a great job of laying out again, why do we do, why do we ask for fruits and vegetables on our plate? Why do we want to put them there? Mostly for those antioxidants and vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, those great antioxidant nutrients.

And when we think about in the past, so our grandparents, our great grandparents, often it was more the default at that point to eat some of these more antioxidant rich foods. You know, they had a variety of both fruits and vegetables. They ate seasonally a little bit more. Maybe they had nuts and seeds on their plate a little bit more as well. So again, it was a little bit more the default to eat that way. Maybe they gathered black walnuts, but all of these foods were protective for their brain cells. On the other hand, you know, as we get a little more modern or as we kind of progress through the years, we tend to fall more into those processed food categories of cereal and toast for breakfast. And if you're turning to that kind of breakfast, you're missing out on that opportunity to get those protective antioxidants.

So potentially if you get an exposure to an environmental toxin, you mentioned pesticides before Britni, your brain just, it doesn't have quite the level of protection that it would if we had some as we would have if those antioxidants were there. Then if we think about lunch, if you eat fast food, you're missing out on that antioxidant protection and putting, potentially putting your brain and your body more at risk.

Those fast foods, they often, they're not cooked in olive oil, I can tell you that. They're usually, they're cooked in those refined damaged fats that are more inflammatory and damage the nerve cells. And then maybe for dinner or even for a snack, you know, fix yourself a nice wild caught salmon salad. Use avocado oil mayonnaise in there. Now you're giving your brain the antioxidants to protect your nerve cells.

So the way we talk about eating at the Weight and Wellness, the Weight and Wellness way, that eating plan, we design menu ideas and help people get those key nutrients in to support their brain and their body using real foods, turning to supplements if and when we need to. But we always, again, we try to do things as much as we can with food first.

Vitamin C is neuroprotective

BRITNI: Absolutely. Yeah. So let's look more specifically at some of the nutrients from real food that have found, found to be neuroprotective. You know, we've talked about vitamin C a little bit and that has really been found to, to be neuroprotective. So if you put bell peppers or blueberries in your salad, or Leah, you mentioned snacking on those little mini bell peppers. I love to do that too. Super simple way to add vitamin C and have some protection for your brain. And higher intake of vitamin C has been linked to lower incidents of Parkinson's disease.

We also know that vitamin C has additional benefits. It is a natural stool softener. We talked about at the beginning, one of the symptoms of Parkinson's is just a slower digestive tract. And often that leads to constipation. And people and those individuals with Parkinson's usually need some ways to help soften their stool, and vitamin C can, can be part of that plan.

LEAH: Yep. Yeah. Absolutely. I know that's a common theme with the Parkinson's clients that I've worked with.

BRITNI: Yeah, same.

Avoid pesticides/insecticides whenever possible

LEAH: Yeah. And, and before we leave the topic of vitamin C and fruits and vegetables, there was a study that I actually took from Dr. Perlmutter's website and it was the one that I read a couple of years ago. But this was a great reminder where this study took four different families and they had them eat their kind of normal diet for the first five or six days. And then these families switched to a hundred percent organic diet for five or six days.

So not a super long time, just a couple of days. And what the researchers were measuring was the level of pesticides in their urine, both before switching to organic and during. And what the researchers found was after that five or six days on a 100% organic diet that of the 18 pesticides that were measured in the urine, 17 of them decreased significantly. Like some decreased by 25-ish percent, but there were others that decreased by 80 or 95%, like significant difference even in five or six days.

So this is just another way to level up a little bit with your nutrition. Going all organic isn't possible for a lot of people from a financial standpoint or even availability standpoint. But Britni, you had mentioned right at the beginning of the show that one of the big environmental exposures that potentially play a role in Parkinson's are things like the pesticides, insecticides, and these are the things that get on our food.


LEAH: So these are the things we do have some control over and we can try to reduce our intake as much as possible by kind of upgrading where we're able to by buying organic and grass-fed and all that good stuff.

BRITNI: That is so interesting. I am so glad you shared that.

Higher cholesterol levels were associated with decreased risk of Parkinson’s disease

LEAH: Yeah. And you know, as we're kind of wrapping, wrapping up a couple last thoughts on the show, one thing I did want to share also was there was some research that came out in 2006 from the American Journal of Epidemiology. And what they found was that higher levels of cholesterol in the blood was actually associated with significant decreased risk of Parkinson's disease. Which again, we think about cholesterol being the bad guy. It's something that we need to keep as low as possible, but it seems that higher cholesterol has some protective effects. Again, we can kind of put it more in that neuroprotective category.

BRITNI: Very interesting.

LEAH: Yeah. And another study found that people with the lowest LDL cholesterol were at increased risk for Parkinson's disease by almost 350%. So a huge number. So when you have that low LDL cholesterol, you're at an increased risk for Parkinson's disease. Our brain needs a lot of cholesterol. It's a big cholesterol hog. So again, we need cholesterol to do good things in our body. What we don't want to have happen is that LDL cholesterol gets oxidized or like we mentioned before, kind of gets rusted out. And that happens when we eat a lot of sugar. So a lot of sugar gets attached to those LDL particles, those LDL molecules. That's where the damage occurs and that's what we were trying to avoid.

BRITNI: Fascinating. And not, kind of the opposite a little bit of what we hear.

LEAH: Absolutely.

BRITNI: I'm really glad that you brought that up.

LEAH: Mm-Hmm.

BRITNI: You know, as you listen to the show, I, I think you no doubt are starting to realize that food really does matter and some foods are neuroprotective and some like sugar and alcohol are neurodegenerative. So as we said at the beginning of the show, Parkinson's disease is a very complicated disease. And today we just started to uncover the nutrition connection. So we will have future shows making more of those connections. And this might be a good time to make an appointment for an individual neuroprotective plan.

Schedule Nutrition Counseling

LEAH: Mm-Hmm. Absolutely. Or if you are a caregiver for somebody with Parkinson's, this would be maybe a good thing to think about as well.

BRITNI: Great point.

LEAH: Yeah. So our goal at Nutritional Weight and Wellness is to help each and every person experience better health through eating real food. It's a simple yet powerful message that eating real food is life changing. Thank you for joining us today.

BRITNI: Thank you.

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