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Berries May Offer Sweet Protection Against Parkinson's Disease
Date:2/14/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

SUNDAY, Feb. 13 (HealthDay News) -- People who eat foods rich in antioxidants called flavonoids, especially berries, may be protecting themselves from developing Parkinson's disease, a new study suggests.

In addition to berries, flavonoids are found in a variety of foods such as apples, chocolate, and citrus fruits. These compounds have been touted as protective against some diseases because of their antioxidant effects, researchers say.

However, not all flavonoids are created equal. Only those known as anthocyanins, found in berries and other red/purplish fruits and vegetables, protected both men and women, according to the results of this study, which was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

"Although it's too early to say that eating berries can reduce Parkinson's disease risk, benefits of berries have been reported in several previous studies, for example, lowering risk of hypertension," said lead researcher Dr. Xiang Gao, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. "So it is good, at least [doing] no harm, if we can have 2-3 cups of berries a week," he said.

"When we combined all individual flavonoids together, total flavonoid intake was also associated with a significantly lower Parkinson's disease risk in men -- but not in women," Gao noted. Only anthocyanins seemed protective for both sexes.

The results of the study are scheduled to be presented in April at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in Honolulu.

For the study, Gao's team collected data on over 49,000 men who took part in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and more than 80,000 women from the Nurses' Health Study.

Participants filled out detailed questionnaires about their diets. Using that information, the researchers calculated the amount of flavonoids people consumed. In addition, they also looked at the consumption of tea, berries, a
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