A VeganSci Post
First off, ‘Parkinsonism’ is a set of symptoms of which Parkinson’s disease is one cause but not the only cause (you learn something new every day!). So when recounting this interesting little story to your friends please make sure you’ve got the distinction right. Remember, accuracy is important if you don’t want to come across as an over-reaching uninformed dingus that can get refuted really easily. Now that that is out of the way…
A very interesting case study reported that a 64 year old man had an incredibly positive improvement in Parkinsonism after adopting a plant-based diet. He was diagnosed with Parkinsonism at age 55, having developed bradykinesia (slowness of movement), bilateral rigidity, start hesitation, and sudden transient freezing. Over time he experienced constipation, anxiety, orthostatic hypotension, and gait freezing, all of which were difficult to treat with drugs because of a complex medical history.
The man started a protein restricted diet which produced slight improvements on symptoms. Two months later he to switch a plant-based diet and quickly saw significant improvements in his gait and motor symptoms. The man now enjoys running and ice skating which were basically impossible before (and at the age of 64 certainly puts me to shame).
The authors point to a few possible reasons for the improvements made while on a plant-based diet including, its protein sparing nature, fibre richness, and possible improved bioavailability of the levodopa drug treatment due to better bowel mobility, among other things. They also suggest that a plant-based diet may be beneficial for people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease or related conditions.
Now, before you get all uppity about the sample size of one I want to strongly acknowledge that we can’t draw any conclusions about Parkinsonism and plant-based diets from this case study. However, case studies can provide hints at interesting areas for research. Plus, I thought this was a pretty cool story and a great outcome.
There also seems to be a few other case studies out there that point to similar results, see:
- Diets, food and Idiopathic Parkinson´s disease
- Pilot dietary study with normoproteic protein-redistributed plant-food diet and motor performance in patients with Parkinson’s disease
It’s important to note that these case studies suggest some positive benefit of a plant-based diet for treating symptoms that some patients of Parkinsonism experience. They DO NOT suggest that a plant-based diet helps prevent Parkinsonism or Parkinson’s disease. So please don’t make that leap when you’re trying to convince your friend how awesome veganism is. There is also a lot of research left to do in this space before we draw any conclusions.
Finally, DON’T take this as medical advice! Don’t convince your friends or family members to go vegan to treat their Parkinsonism/Parkinson’s disease. Convince them to go vegan for the animals, and to seek advice from a health professional regarding their Parkinsonism.
NB: You may notice that the case study uses the term ‘vegan diet’ while I use ‘plant-based diet’. I believe the latter is more accurate because veganism involves more than just a dietary change, it is a lived ethic.
Title: Dramatic response of parkinsonism to a vegan diet: Case report
Authors: Roger Kurlan, Rajesh Kumari and Ivana Ganihong
Journal: Journal of Parkinson’s disease & Alzheimer’s disease
If you can’t access the paper try emailing the corresponding author directly and asking nicely for a copy. Most people will be more than happy to share their research with you. Alternatively, get in touch with me and I can help you out.