Study at URI looks at ways technology can support nutritional needs of Parkinson’s patients

Nov. 6, 2018

A study is underway at the University of Rhode Island to assess how technology could help people with Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers easily access relevant nutrition information.

“Nutrition isn’t usually included in the care plan for Parkinson’s until the end of disease progression,” says Dara LoBuono, a Ph.D. candidate in nutrition and food sciences at the College of Health Sciences. “For example, when a patient needs tube feeding.”

But side effects experienced by people with Parkinson’s disease, both from the disease itself and from the medications used to treat it, often affect the desire and ability to eat—and in turn, nutrition.

To help guide people with Parkinson’s in healthy eating, the Lipid Lab at URI recently began a new study to determine how technology—such as social media forums for sharing tips and recipes, or Skype sessions with a nutritionist—might help support dietary interventions and nutrition management for people with Parkinson’s. Study coordinator LoBuono is conducting the research alongside principal investigator Ingrid Lofgren, an associate professor in nutrition and food sciences.

The team was inspired to find a solution that would make it easier for people with Parkinson’s and caregivers to keep up with nutrition information relevant to their needs, without adding additional demands on their time.

The study, “Tailoring Digital Health to Improve the Nutrition and Health of People with Parkinson’s Disease and Their Caregivers,” is enrolling people with Parkinson’s in tandem with their caregivers for a series of four assessments (one in person, and three by phone) that include interviews about diet, exercise, digital competence, and disease burden. Participants will complete two 24-hour detailed logs of food and beverages consumed in a 24-hour period. At the conclusion of the four sessions, each participant receives tailored dietary recommendations from a registered dietitian, based on their assessment data.

Ultimately, the study will help inform nutrition interventions that can improve the health trajectory of people with Parkinson’s. “The Parkinson’s community is a really motivated group of people,” says LoBuono. “They have a lot of interest in learning changes they can make to improve diet and health, and it’s rewarding to be part of that.”

URI Today has the full story

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