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Is underweightness still a major problem in Parkinson's disease patients?


Objective: To evaluate the current rate of underweightness amongst Parkinson's disease (PD) patients at an Italian referral centre.

Design: Epidemiological study on consecutive patients presenting for the first time in a 16-month period.

Setting: Nutritional service of PD referral centre in Milan, Italy.

Subjects: Three-hundred and sixty-four PD patients diagnosed according to CAPIT criteria.

Methods: Anthropometric assessments: BMI and waist-to-hip ratio; evaluation of therapeutic physical activity (h/week).

Results: Three-hundred and sixty-four patients were included (180 female, 184 male), mean (s.d.) age 65.9 (8.9) y, mean (s.d.) duration of PD 10.6 (5.3) y; 134 patients (37%) were overweight and 92 (25%) were obese; 11 (3%) were underweight; 127 (35%) had normal BMI. No important differences in BMI according to sex and smoking status were observed. There was highly significant inverse correlation between duration of disease and BMI (P<0.001): mean (s.d.) duration of disease was 9.7 (4.7) y in overweight+obese patients, 11.1 (5.5) y in patients with normal BMI and 14.1 (7.2) y in underweight patients (P=0.0059). The waist-to-hip ratio was a cardiovascular risk factor in 47.7% of men and 73.8% of women. Mean (s.d.) therapeutic physical activity was 1.07 (1.59) h/week in overweight and obese patients vs 1.61 (2.04) h/week in patients with normal BMI (50.5% increase; P=0.03).

Conclusions: At present underweightness is uncommon in PD patients in Italy; this may be due to the increase in the prevalence of overweightness in the Italian population and to modern antiparkinsonian therapy.

Sponsorship: Fondazione Grigioni per il Morbo di Parkinson.

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We wish to thank Jennifer Hartwig, MD for drafting the manuscript.

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Authors and Affiliations



Guarantor: M Barichella.

Contributors: BM and MA designed the study. PG critically reviewed the protocol and manuscript. BM and MA were the experts in clinical nutrition responsible for anthropometric assessments, recruitment of patients, data management and statistical analysis. VA was the dietician responsible for the collection of dietary data. CM was the neurologist responsible for the diagnosis of PD and neurological information.

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Correspondence to G Pezzoli.

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Barichella, M., Marczewska, A., Vairo, A. et al. Is underweightness still a major problem in Parkinson's disease patients?. Eur J Clin Nutr 57, 543–547 (2003).

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  • Parkinson's disease
  • nutritional status
  • BMI
  • anthropometry

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