Image of Essi Hantikainen, Ph.D.
Essi Hantikainen, Ph.D.

People who consume high levels of dietary vitamins C and E may have a third less risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, new research has found. 

The study specifically looked at dietary vitamins containing antioxidants — micronutrients that are known to reduce or prevent cell damage and inflammation. To do so, investigators analyzed the self-reported eating habits of more than 41,000 adults in Sweden for an average of 18 years. None had Parkinson’s at the study’s start. 

Fully 465 people received Parkinson’s diagnoses during the study period. After adjusting for factors such as age, sex, body mass index and physical activity, participants who consumed the most food containing vitamins C and E were found to have a 32% lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease than those in the lowest-consuming group. And the risk appeared to be even lower for people with the highest intake of both vitamins. 

Antioxidants are thought to help counteract molecular stress that can lead to dopamine loss, a hallmark of Parkinson’s. Vitamin C is found in foods such as oranges, strawberries, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Vitamin E can be found in spinach, collard greens, pumpkin and nuts.

“The possibility of being able to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease simply with the foods we eat is encouraging news,” said author Essi Hantikainen, Ph.D., of the University of Milano-Bicocca in Milan, Italy. She also noted that too much vitamin E from supplements has been linked to a higher risk of certain cancers or stroke. The study did not investigate supplement use.

The study was published in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.