Neuroprotective Diet For MSA Patients

Though the precise cause or causes of MSA are not known at this time, food choices can influence certain components of the disease process, slowing or speeding up inflammation, degenerative protein accumulation, nerve cell destruction, and decreased neurotransmitter levels.

Calorie Restriction

Eating a low-calorie diet has been shown to boost brain levels of glutamate, a neurotransmitter that contributes to motor control. Levels of glutamate, like those of dopamine, are diminished in Parkinsonism1. In a preliminary animal study, 21 days of calorie restriction restored glutamate levels to normal1. When initiated in the early stages or before onset of symptoms, this approach has been shown to result in less loss of dopamine-producing neurons. Primate research over the past three decades has shown that a 20% calorie-reduced diet promotes healthier aging of the brain and immune system1.

Low-Protein and Protein Re-Distribution

Patients who have been prescribed the Parkinson’s drugs levodopa or carbidopa may consider adopting a low-protein diet, which promotes more efficient use of these drugs that compete with dietary amino acids for absorption2. Ideally, protein should be eaten an hour before or an hour after taking levodopa. Consuming the majority of your daily protein at your evening meal can also help improve effectiveness of these drugs and has been found to produce superior results to a low-protein diet in one study3.

Another class of drugs for managing Parkinson’s symptoms, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), prevents the breakdown of dopamine. However, MAOIs also prevent breakdown of tyramine, a monoamine found in certain aged and fermented foods, such as cheeses, soy sauce, pickled fish, tofu, sauerkraut, ripening produce, and beer. Tyramine, which increases blood pressure, is normally kept in check by the activity of monoamine oxidaxse. If tyramine levels become elevated, as from high intake of tyramine-containing foods or use of MAO inhibitors, episodes of dangerously elevated blood pressure occur. Statistically, the majority of tyramine-related high blood pressure happens from eating aged cheeses. Avoid these and all other aged, fermented, or spoiled foods. To further reduce tyrosine consumption, keep foods refrigerated and consume fresh produce within 48 hours. Use canned or frozen foods immediately after opening. Thaw foods in the refrigerator as opposed to a kitchen counter4.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Chronic inflammation is recognized as a risk factor for numerous degenerative diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune conditions, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and MSA5. Inflammation in the nervous system occurs early in Parkinsonian conditions, accelerating the degeneration of dopamine-producing cells9. High levels of certain types of inflammatory molecules are often present in the early stages of MSA11. While the precise causes of inflammation in MSA are currently unknown, choosing a diet that is low in inflammation-promoting foods and high in inflammation-fighting foods can help manage some symptoms and slow the disease progression.

A good foundation of an anti-inflammatory diet plan starts with healthy fats. Trade trans fats, such as those in convenience foods, commercially prepared baked goods, and other foods with long shelf life6 for similar foods cooked with healthy vegetable oils. Prepare fresh foods at home as much as possible using olive oil. Also reduce or eliminate saturated animal fats, which promote inflammation. Eat high-omega-3, cold-water fish 2 to 3 times per week or supplement with omega-3 fatty acids. Sprinkle freshly ground flax seeds, a good vegetarian source of omega-3s, onto hot or cold cereal and drizzle flaxseed oil over salads and vegetables.

A diet that emphasizes liberal quantities of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables helps quell inflammation. Aim for 8 to 10 servings per day6. Part of the anti-inflammatory benefits of fruits and vegetables comes from the soluble and insoluble fiber they contain. Fruits and vegetables also contain generous amounts of anti-inflammatory micronutrients, such as quercetin and flavonoids7. Use liberal amounts of herbs and spices in your cooking. Many spices provide considerable anti-inflammatory benefits along with being intensely flavorful. Common kitchen spices such as cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cumin, oregano, basil, parsley, rosemary, and turmeric – one of the main ingredients in curry spice – are among the highest in anti-inflammatory benefits8.

High-Antioxidant Foods

Compounds found in certain plant foods also help protect the energy-producing parts of nerve cells, called mitochondria. Faulty mitochondrial function is thought to play an important role in the development of Parkinsonian conditions, leading to sluggish cells that accumulate high levels of oxidants, cell-damaging toxins and waste products. Sulforaphane, a compound in broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and other cruciferous vegetables, increases activity of cellular antioxidant defense mechanisms. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is being studied for mitochondrial and neuroprotective benefits.

For all references listed in the About MSA section please download the MSA Coalition's "MSA - What You Need to Know"

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