Are Berries the Best Superfood? Blueberries Treat Parkinson’s Disease

In the case of blueberries, studies have shown that they might reduce the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. Now, the small blue treat might also help treat brain disorders, including Parkinson’s disease.

Around half a million people currently have Parkinson’s Disease in the U.S. and that number is increasing by 50,000 each year. Although the exact cause of Parkinson’s is unknown, research suggests that the protein alpha-synuclein  plays a role in the development of the disorder. This protein regulates the release of dopamine which is a neurotransmitter thought to be lacking in people with Parkinson’s Disease.

According to Dr. Brian Staveley, it has been proven that the gene causes Parkinson’s Disease in patients with a family history of the disease. In addition, people with an abundance of alpha-synuclein experience oxidative stress more often. Oxidative stress is an imbalance between molecules that cause cell death and those that protect against cell damage.

In testing fruit flies, researchers injected them with alpha-synuclein and observed a decrease in the lifespan of the flies. The researchers then gave the flies blueberry extract to test if it had any effects on their health. Those that were given a blueberry extract diet experienced an eight day increase (15%) in their lifespans compared to those that were provided with a regular diet.

Dr. Staveley says that in comparing pharmaceuticals to nutraceuticals (food products that provide health benefits), the latter doesn’t get enough medical testing because they do not need testing for approval. As a result, people are told to consume more fruits and vegetables, yet scientists are still unaware of how such foods can prevent and or treat diseases. Blueberries in general are on the list of Medical News Today’s top ten healthy foods and are noted for decreasing the risk of obesity and high blood pressure as well.

Blueberries are definitely a good source of nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants. In terms of possessing healing properties, more research needs to be conducted to determine the exact effects these berries have on the brain. Given the current studies, those who suffer from Parkinson’s Disease should remember that although blueberries have not been proven to heal them, they can still increase their intake of the berries to minimize other potential health risks.

Gary Starkman Dr. Starkman, a top Neurologist in NYC, is the Medical Director and founder of New York Neurology Associates. He is Board Certified in Neurology with a subspecialty certification in Pain Medicine.

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