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Diet, Support Play Roles in Living with Parkinson's

A healthy diet including omega-3 fatty acids, can help protect the brain from Parkinson's disease.

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A diagnosis of Parkinson's disease doesn't need to leave a senior and his or her family members dejected. Hope is on the horizon and support is available.

Q. My 78-year-old mother, who is divorced from our dad, has just been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. I've read a lot about this disease and frankly, the prognosis does not seem to be encouraging. Is there any positive news about this condition and what we can do to help Mom get along at home?

As you probably already have learned, Parkinson's disease is caused by the progressive death of the neurons responsible for producing dopamine, a neurotransmitter closely linked with movement control.

Researchers from the Université Laval (Quebec City) discovered that omega-3 fatty acids can help protect the brain from Parkinson's disease. Researchers believe that their findings cannot only help prevent the disease but slow down its progress.*

Apparently, it's all about balance between two fatty acid groups – omega-3 and omega-6. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, a healthy diet should consist of roughly two to four times more omega-3 fatty acids than omega-6 fatty acids. The typical American diet tends to contain 14 to 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids, and many researchers believe this imbalance is a significant factor in the rising rate of inflammatory disorders in the U.S.**

Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut, other marine life such as algae and krill, certain plants (including purslane), and nut oils. Most omega-6 fatty acids are consumed in the diet from vegetable oils such as linoleic acid (not to be confused this with alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, which is an omega-3 fatty acid).

Canadian researchers observed that when mice were fed an omega-3 rich diet, they seemed immune to the effect of MPTP, a toxic compound that causes the same damage to the brain as Parkinson's. By contrast, another group of mice that were fed an ordinary diet developed the characteristic symptoms of the disease when injected with MPTP.

Please talk with your mother's doctor about medication options and other ways to help her treat this disease. And don't forget the benefit of support. If your mother needs extra help with tasks such as meal preparation, light housekeeping and medication reminders, contact Home Instead®. The company's CAREGiversSM can be of assistance.

* For more information about the study:

** For information about omega fatty acids:

Last revised: July 15, 2011

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