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Antioxidants: Vitamin C and E, Mediterranean Diet

Vitamins C and E

  • Free radicals are toxic molecules produced by virtually every cell in the body, usually in response to stress or injury.
  • For example, sunlight exposure, cigarette smoking, and infection can generate free radical formation in some cell types. These particles are thought to be particularly toxic to brain cells.
  • Antioxidants “soak up” or scavenge free radicals. Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that fight free radicals, and may protect brain cells.
  • Some concerns have been raised about possible side effects of Vitamin E supplements; this may result from the form of Vitamin E commonly available, alpha-tocopherol. A “mixed” supplement, containing multiple forms of Vitamin E, may turn out to be safer or more effective.
  • More research is needed; meanwhile dietary sources include whole grains, wheat germ, avocados, nuts and vegetable oils
  • Since there is evidence that free radical damage is involved to some extent in PD, Vitamin E, a moderately potent antioxidant was studied in people with early PD in a large study in the 1980s.
  • The study  of Vitamin E did not demonstrate a slowing effect or neuroprotection, and in fact, showed that it could potentially be harmful to PD patients.  Researchers believe that more studies are required.
  • However, it is possible that dietary Vitamin E may be used more easily by the body than the supplements used in the study.

The Mediterranean Diet

  • This might be another reason to consider the Mediterranean diet.
  • There is some evidence that the so-called Mediterranean diet, a diet high in monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, may be beneficial in reducing blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
  • The diet also emphasizes fish, especially those high in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, and foods containing antioxidants.
  • Persons with PD are often particularly concerned about the possibility that protein intake can decrease the effectiveness of carbidopa/levodopa, one of the common medications used to treat PD.
  • Levodopa absorption in the brain can be slowed by a high protein meal, and  as the disease progresses, most patients find that their symptoms are better controlled if they have most of their protein later in the day.
  • Since PD can affect digestive function, many patients do notice symptoms such as constipation and early satiety (the sensation of feeling very full after consuming a small amount of food).


It is important for persons with Parkinson’s disease to let their health care providers know of any herbal products, vitamins, over-the-counter medications and dietary changes they are using or have made on a regular basis. Some of these compounds may interact or interfere with PD medications.

Read more at the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine web site.

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