Exploring the links between Parkinson’s and weight loss

Weighted spoons and nutritional changes can make a difference

Mary Beth Skylis avatar

by Mary Beth Skylis |

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My dad, who has Parkinson’s disease, has experienced some weight loss recently.

I have theories about that. I think it’s partly because of his Parkinson’s tremors, which not only increase his energy output, but also make it more difficult for him to eat (which could mean that he’s eating less than his body needs to sustain his weight).

Science seems to confirm this theory. Some of the most common causes for weight loss in Parkinson’s include dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, and dyskinesia, the uncontrolled movements that expend energy. Overall, though, people with Parkinson’s experience shifts in weight for a variety of complex reasons.

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Ways to cut weight loss

One tool I’ve been thinking about encouraging Dad to try is a tremor spoon, as some with Parkinson’s find this kind of weighted spoon easier to use. One spoon on the market helps to mitigate tremors with a mechanized component, and a 2013 study found it reduced the effect of its users’ tremors by as much as 70%. And while cost can be a pretty big deterrent, I’m curious about tools that we can use to help my dad.

In addition to looking at available tools, I think I also need to look for ways to pack higher-density foods and drinks into Dad’s diet. When I was an endurance athlete, we’d apply strategies like adding oil or butter to our food to increase the fat in our diet. Another easy option for some people is to drink calories, but I want to be careful about this choice for Dad since adding a bunch of sugar to his diet probably isn’t best. For myself, I’ve added protein powder to my drinks or grabbed coconut water from the grocery store to take in more calories.

The key for my dad, I think, is to balance his energy output with the appropriate nutrition (and maybe adding some tools that’ll help with the consumption process). I’ve also considered that maybe his appetite is shrinking. This shift isn’t entirely uncommon in later stages of Parkinson’s, but people can stimulate their appetite to offset the effects of their energy expenditure.

Dad isn’t currently too concerned about his small dip in weight, as he experienced larger weight loss because of ulcerative colitis. He maintains a positive outlook about this latest bump in the road. I trust him and his evaluation of the disease and his weight, but I’d still like to encourage him to use more of his available tools.

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


David Netz avatar

David Netz

I too have lost about 20 pounds since having been diagnosed with Parkinson's last summer. My research has led to one factor is the impact of Parkinson's on the microbiome, particularly the Vagus nerve which connects to the brain. I am exploring various diet supplement options and also working with a local scientist who is developing a new approach to supplements. I am hopeful this will help some of the symptoms of Parkinson's I experience and retore a healthy digestive tract.

Henrik Palme avatar

Henrik Palme

I was diagnosed having Parkinson 4 years ago, however I think that I had Parkinson 5 to 10 year before that. The reason is that during 2018 I started loosing weight and no one knew why, not even my Doctor. Also, all my life ( until Parkinson), I have been very athletic playing sports every weekend but also in 2018 I had to stop playing tennis because I was afraid of landing my face on the surface of the tennis court. I had my first MRI Parkinson test around 2017 that turned to be negative. It was not until the second MIR test in 2019 that it turned out to be positive. Parkinson’s progression is very slow especially if you do a lot of exercises, so that is why I think that I have had for so many years. Loosing weight is a result of loosing your sense of smell, and losing your appetite, two of the many consequences of Parkinson.

Patti McCormick avatar

Patti McCormick

My weight loss was due to GERD. I lost 30 pounds in 4 months. My GI doctor ran so many tests and couldn't explain why the GERD hit me. When I was finally diagnosed in 2020 so many things made sense that had been going on with my body, including GERD. Once I told my GI doctor that I was diagnosed he said, "That explains everything." I now take prescription Pepcid and the past month hasn't been too bad with GERD, so I have gained back 3 pounds so far. I've been working with a nutritionist who has me drink a plant based protein shake. That has helped some too.


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