By Jamie Sheard

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that affects 1 in 100 people over the age of 60 worldwide but can also be diagnosed in people as young as 18 years old. In addition to the movement symptoms that are commonly associated with the disease (tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia and postural instability), there are also a number of non-movement symptoms. These include depression, anxiety, cognitive impairment, GI dysfunction (dysphagia, delayed gastric emptying, constipation), and loss of olfactory senses. In the absence of a cure, symptom management becomes important for mobility and quality of life but also to maintain good nutritional status. Our research in the Brisbane area indicated that 15% of people with Parkinson’s disease residing at home were malnourished (SGA-B). The severity of the movement symptoms, presence of more depressive symptoms and older age at the time of diagnosis were associated with a malnutrition diagnosis in this group. A randomized controlled nutrition intervention with one group receiving standard care in the form of a high protein, high energy information sheet and the other group receiving an individualised dietetic intervention was conducted with the malnourished or those at risk of malnutrition. Both groups gained weight on average, but the intervention group gained twice as much weight (as a % of starting weight) as those receiving standard care. In the entire sample, an increase in protein intake was associated with improved PG-SGA scores, a decrease in depressive symptoms and less self-reported freezing of gait. Nutrition-related care is an important component in the management of Parkinson’s disease, particularly as the disease progresses. World Parkinson’s Day (11 April 2013) is a great opportunity to highlight the need for better access to nutrition services by people with Parkinson’s disease in the community.


Sheard JM, Ash S, Silburn PA, Kerr GK. Prevalence of malnutrition in Parkinson’s disease: a systematic review. Nutr Rev; 2011;69(9):520–32.

Sheard JM, Ash S, Mellick GD, Silburn PA, Kerr GK. Malnutrition in a sample of community-dwelling people with Parkinson’s disease. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(1):e53290.

Sheard JM, Ash S, Mellick GD, Silburn PA, Kerr GK. Markers of disease severity are associated with malnutrition in Parkinson’s disease. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(3):e57986.

Add address