Dr. Greger’s Top Takeaways on Parkinson’s, Fibromyalgia, and Tea Tree Oil

Every month, we publish around eight new videos, four Friday Favorites, eight blogs, and four podcasts on NutritionFacts.org. We are bursting at the seams with health and nutrition information! Starting now, we are taking all of that information and wrapping up the juiciest bits into a nice, bite-sized blog as an end-of-month recap in case you missed anything or just want a refresher. So, what were the highlights in February?

Treating Parkinson’s Disease with Velvet Beans and Fava Beans

Fava beans in an enameled bowlOur two new videos on Parkinson’s disease released this month addressed the question, If we have known for decades that Parkinson’s is manifested by a dopamine deficiency in the brain, why not eat a dopamine diet? The dopamine in foods can’t actually cross the blood-brain barrier, but its precursor, levodopa (L-dopa), can and is then able to be converted into dopamine. Dr. Greger found interesting data on velvet and fava (or broad) beans, which both contain L-dopa. The information on velvet beans looked promising at first, but there are some hurdles to its use—including its nasty taste.

What about fava beans? They contain less L-dopa than velvet beans, but they are tasty—so you can eat more of them—and can be consumed as a whole food. Substantial clinical improvements were noted in patients after they ate fava beans, similar to that of receiving a standard drug. Overall, the research is ongoing, and, until we know more, Parkinson’s combo drugs like Sinemet should remain the first-line therapy, but adding beans to our diet can only help. Even just one and a half spoonsful’s worth of roasted soybeans (“soynuts”) led to a significant improvement in symptoms as an adjunct treatment.


The Best Diet for Fibromyalgia and Other Chronic Pain Relief

Woman holding upper shoulder as if in painFibromyalgia has long been dismissed as a psychological phenomenon, but it’s now understood to be a disorder of pain regulation and sensitization. If pain is typically caused by inflammation, does an anti-inflammatory diet help reduce the effects of fibromyalgia? A recent study found that on a plant-based diet, perceived pain decreased an average of three points (on a ten-point scale), falling from an average of five or six points down to just two out of ten. The study didn’t have a control group, but there’s no downside to giving healthier eating a try—not only to help with fibromyalgia pain, but for a whole host of other concerns.


Vinegar for Blood Sugar Control and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Treatment

Gloved hand doing a finger prick on another person’s handVinegar has been shown to help accelerate weight loss, reduce cholesterol, act as a disinfectant, and blunt spikes in blood sugar and insulin after meals. Since insulin resistance has been suggested as one possible cause of polycystic ovaries and we know vinegar can improve insulin resistance, could it also benefit those suffering from PCOS? A tiny study using one tablespoon a day showed improvement for about half of the participants. The jury is still out, but this suggests that vinegar may help, so why not give it a try? Whatever your reason for taking a daily dose of vinegar, remember to never drink it straight, as it can cause second-degree caustic burns down your throat.

It has been suggested that insulin resistance is one of the causes of polycystic ovaries and we know that vinegar can improve insulin resistance, so researchers decided to study the effect of vinegar for PCOS. Seven patients seeking a non-pharmacological treatment for PCOS were given a beverage containing a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar every day for a few months. The insulin resistance did improve in most, but did their cycles return? Yes, in four out of seven. Before the study, they were either having their periods every 50 or so days or not at all, or they were not ovulating, but most resumed within 40 days on the vinegar. Now, this doesn’t prove anything, but it’s at least sufficient to indicate the possibility that it may help. And, what’s the downside? A tablespoon of vinegar would cost less than 10 cents a day. (Another reminder to never drink vinegar straight.)


Dr. Greger in the Kitchen: Groatnola

Dr. Greger holding cooking tray with groatnolaTwo years ago, Dr. Greger made a video about his then-favorite breakfast, the Cran-Chocolate Pomegranate BROL Bowl. He still loves it, but with pomegranate season waning once again, he’s on a new kick: groatnola! What’s that? Whole-food granola made with buckwheat groats, sweet potatoes, and spices. Give it a try, and let us know what you think!


Tea Tree Oil for Cold Sores and Warts?

Tea tree oil has antifungal and antibacterial properties, as shown in videos such as Does Tea Tree Oil Work for Dandruff and Athlete’s Foot? and Do Natural and DIY Tea Tree Oil Cleaning Products Disinfect as Well as Bleach?. Warts and cold sores, on the other hand, are caused by viruses, so does tea tree work on those conditions? Maybe on warts (at least in a singular case report), but not on cold sores.


Vegetarian Athletes

In this three-blog series, starting with What Is the Gladiator Diet and How Do Vegetarian Athletes Stack Up?, Dr. Greger looked at the history of vegetarian athletes and how they stacked up to their omnivorous competition. Top groups of athletes, from ancient Romans and Greeks to modern-day Olympic runners, have been known to eat largely plant-based diets. Overall, most studies have found little difference between vegetarian and omnivore athletes when it comes to cardio or strength fitness. Since extensive research has shown that a plant-based diet has the benefit of greater long-term health outcomes, it seems like a winning choice. 

Healthy Bones

This month’s spotlight is all about bone health. Do people eating plant-based have greater bone loss? Does animal protein intake lead to bone loss? What is the relationship between milk consumption and rates of hip fractures? Check out the podcast for answers to those questions and more. In a nutshell, though, for the strongest bones, eat plenty of phytonutrient-packed plant foods and incorporate weight-bearing exercise.


This has been a wrap-up of just a small sampling of our recent content. To see everything from the past month, be sure to check out the video, blog, and podcast pages.