Plant-Based Diet and Vitamin B2 Might Help in Managing Parkinson Disease

Back in November 2009, I wrote a blog post about a study that suggested that a hereditary problem in the metabolism of riboflavin (vitamin B2) and the heavy consumption of red meat could both contribute to the cause of Parkinson disease. The researchers did blood tests for riboflavin for 31 consecutive Parkinson patients who entered their clinic. Every single one of them had abnormally low blood levels of riboflavin. In comparison, only a few of the patients with other neurologic diseases had low riboflavin levels. The Parkinson patients also tended to be heavy consumers of red meat. After the riboflavin deficiency was corrected and the Parkinson patients stopped eating red meat, their motor skills improved dramatically.

I thought that this study was important. It suggested that cheap and generally beneficial interventions could provide significant benefits for people with Parkinson disease. It should have been followed up with larger studies. Keep in mind that Parkinson disease is a major cause of disability among elderly Americans and ranks 14th among causes of death in the United States.

Since then, I’ve seen a few studies in which investigators assess riboflavin status by asking people what they’ve been eating, instead of doing a blood test! This is a big mistake because the Parkinson patients in the 2003 study had riboflavin deficiency even though they were eating normal amounts of riboflavin. Their bodies just weren’t handling the riboflavin efficiently. We need more research to show whether Parkinson patients should routinely be screened for riboflavin deficiency. Of course, if you or a loved one has Parkinson disease, you can just ask for the riboflavin level to be tested. If a patient has a vitamin deficiency, it should be corrected, shouldn’t it?

Another study, published in January of 2011, found that Parkinson patients improved when they switched to a plant-based diet. This came as no surprise to me because simply eating less protein, especially during the daytime, can dramatically improve the patient’s response to L-dopa, which is the drug of choice for treating Parkinson disease.

3 thoughts on “Plant-Based Diet and Vitamin B2 Might Help in Managing Parkinson Disease”

  1. The detox diet has come under harsh scrutiny over the past few months. There are ample claims that the only weight lost is the water weight form the initial fast and the natural weight loss occurs from cutting caloric intake. The detox diet is quite restrictive, to the point where some people are calling it a starvation diet. There have been countless articles written by "experts" that state that the detox diet endangers people, stating that it creates yo-yo dieting, an unhealthy relationship with food, and even can contribute to the development of an eating disorder.

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  2. I did a juice fast for 75 days and only juice raw fruits and vegetables. There was definitely no starvation. I have an autoimmune disease and for the first time in 18 years my back doesn't hurt. I feel great and I lost 60 lbs. My nails are strong for the first time in my life. No sickness the whole time and I felt full to the point I made myself drink juice. I am now eating Vegan or a plant based diet for the next 100 days. My father has Parkinson's and I'm trying to convince him to try it out and see if it helps. He has tried many non-conventional options and I am a believer.

  3. Thanks for letting me know! Plant-based diets do wonders for people with autoimmune disease because they don't contain proteins that resemble human proteins. Can you get your father's doctor to test his riboflavin levels (vitamin B2)?

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