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  • "Low Protein Diets for Parkinson's Disease"

  • Parkinson's disease is a disease of dopamine deficiency in the brain.

  • You can't just have people take dopamine because it can't

  • pass through the blood-brain barrier,

  • but you can give people a dopamine precursor

  • called levodopa, or L-dopa, which can get up into the brain

  • and be turned into dopamine.

  • However, with prolonged treatment, patients start to show a reduced

  • response to levodopa. After 5 years of levodopa treatment,

  • the benefits start wearing off before the next dose,

  • or don't completely contain symptoms in a substantial proportion of patients,

  • and represents a major source of disability, and significantly

  • impairs quality of life. Therefore, maximizing the therapeutic efficiency

  • of levodopa is an important goal, and that's where

  • protein-restricted diets come in.

  • Wait, what does protein have to do with Parkinson's?

  • Certain amino acids in proteins have been proven to impair

  • the therapeutic effect of levodopa by reducing its absorption

  • and influx into the brain, because they use

  • the same transporter so can crowd each other out.

  • Here's a before-and-after PET scan showing levodopa activity

  • in the brain before and after protein loading.

  • That's why protein-restricted diets can improve the efficacy of levodopa.

  • There are three ways to do that: an overall low-protein diet,

  • a so-called protein-redistribution diet, or a combination of the two.

  • As a dietary strategy, a low-protein diet is nice because

  • it's not only effective, but also simple to understand and follow.

  • And by low protein, we're just talking about sticking to the recommended

  • amount of protein, 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.

  • As I've covered before, most people are eating excess protein

  • and suffering because of it.

  • 0.8 grams per KG is equivalent to about 0.36 grams per pound.

  • So you take your weight in pounds, multiply times 0.36,

  • and get how many grams in protein you should eat in a day.

  • So if you weigh 140 pounds,

  • you should eat about 50 grams of protein a day.

  • The positive effect of limiting dietary protein can be noticed within

  • one week, even in patients no longer responding to the manipulation

  • of levodopa's medication schedule or to other anti-Parkinson drugs.

  • Protein-redistribution diets have been investigated most thoroughly,

  • and have been confirmed

  • to be effective with a remarkable 60 to 100% response rate.

  • We know about the deleterious influence of dietary protein

  • and the benefit of a low-protein diet; however, it's not only

  • the total amount of daily protein but also how it's distributed

  • over the day. If we eat only protein-rich foods at night,

  • staying under a total of 10 grams a day for breakfast and lunch,

  • then we eliminate the amino acid surges during the day,

  • and who cares if they surge after we go to bed?

  • Parkinson's is a movement disorder, and so if the drugs

  • are not going to work,

  • then it might as well be when you're sleeping.

  • Fiber is another way to get levodopa to work better.

  • Significant improvements in L-dopa blood levels and

  • Parkinson's symptoms starting as early as 30 to 60 minutes

  • after eating a diet rich

  • in insoluble fiber, like the kind found concentrated in whole grains.

  • Well, if fiber helps, then how about a plant-based diet

  • for the management of Parkinson's disease?

  • You don't know until you put it to the test.

  • They looked at a normal protein amount redistributed plant-based diet,

  • and Parkinson's patients saw a significant improvement in symptoms

  • and performance, making it a convenient way to conjugate

  • the positive effects of non-excess protein intake

  • and a high fiber intake without limiting total food amount.

  • Planning such a diet is rather simple, centering around unprocessed

  • plant foods, but reserving protein-rich plants like beans, split peas,

  • chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts to the evening meal.

  • And voila --- the clinical improvement hit all the major motor signs:

  • the rigidity, the tremor, and slowness of movement,

  • the things that really matter to Parkinson's patients,

  • in particular the tremor, the shaking, which often does not respond

  • to drugs but was highly positively affected by the plant-based diet.

  • So plants may be preferable for Parkinson's,

  • but you don't know how well it will work for you until you give it a try.

"Low Protein Diets for Parkinson's Disease"

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