“Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.” Sophia Loren
I’m with Sophia Loren (and millions of other Italians) : a life without pasta is just not worth it. Shoot me at dawn if I cannot have my fettucini alfredo, my papperdelle with pesto, my yummy tortellini……….
What brought this on? I was listening to a webinar by the bundle of energy Laurie K Mischley, ND PhD MPH. The “ND” after her name is not a typo, Dr. Mischley is a naturopathic doctor out of Seattle’s respected naturopathic university, Bastyr University. She is well-known in Parkinson circles for her work on relating Parkinson’s Disease to what we eat.
Some years back, Dr. Mischley started with a simple question: Parkinson’s patients who deteriorate at a slower rate than others must be doing something right. What are they eating?
She started this research study: Complementary & Alternative Medicine in Parkinson’s Disease (CAM Care in PD). Her purpose was to “to identify practices, beliefs, and therapies used by individuals who report excellent quality of life, few PD symptoms, and reduced rates of progression.” Participants fill out a questionnaire every 6 months for five years, describing their symptoms and severity, and reporting in excruciating detail what they eat. She counteracts our generally fuzzy memory of what we eat by also having participants fill out (in even more detail) what they ate in the last 24 hours. I know about the detail because I was a volunteer participant for a number of years. Dr. Mischley always managed to pop that 24-hour survey on me right after I had done some wicked and atypical food experience: e.g., ate corn dogs and onion rings at the street festival, attended a potluck at which pies and brownies were prominent, went out to a lavish restaurant, etc. (She is still recruiting.)
To identify patients who reported “excellent quality of life”, Dr. Mischley developed PRO-PD, a Patient–Reported-Outcome scale. This provides a more quantitative, comparable way for the patient to report quality of life and the nature and severity of symptoms.
So – what are the foods that are associated with patients whose disease is not progressing as fast as the average Parkie? The good guy foods are what you’d expect: Fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, olive oil and wine, fish (not fried) and fresh herbs – like the Mediterranean Diet. The surprise item on the good side is coconut oill On the bad side are the ususal suspects: diet soda, beef, pork, dairy, fried food, and bread. There are also some surprising foods on the dark side: Canned or frozen fruits and vegetables., chicken, and of course, my beloved pasta.
Sorry, life is too short for me to give up pasta, The frozen fruit is also a troubling inclusion on the baddie list. I routinely buy quantities of fresh produce in season, then freeze it and enjoy it all winter. I might understand canned produce being on the bad list since can processing supposedly sucks out vitamins. But frozen, vacuum-sealed fruit bought at the peak of the season? Hard to believe.
At the webinar, Dr. Mischley did reveal what was the most asked question about food choices. She said if she had $10 for every time the question had been asked, she could pay for all her research. The question? “Which is better for you – red or white wine?