Berries.  They’re sweet, they’re natural, and they may even fight off Parkinson’s disease.

In a study released today, researchers have found men and women who regularly eat berries may have a lower risk of developing the disorder of the central nervous system.

Men may further lower their risk for the disease by regularly eating apples, oranges and other sources rich in dietary components called flavonoids.

Flavonoids are found in plants and fruits, known collectively as vitamin P and citrin. They can also be found in berry fruits, chocolate, and citrus fruits like grapefruit.

The study will be presented this week at the American Academy of Neurology's 63rd Annual Meeting.

Researchers gave the study participants -- 49,281 men and 80,336 women -- questionnaires, calculated how many flavonoids they ate regularly, then analyzed the association between flavonoid intakes and risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

They also analyzed consumption of five major sources of foods rich in flavonoids: tea, berries, apples, red wine, and oranges or orange juice.

The participants were followed for 20 to 22 years. During that time, 805 people developed Parkinson's disease.

In men, the top 20 percent who consumed the most flavonoids were about 40 percent less likely to develop Parkinson's disease than the bottom 20 percent of male participants who consumed the least amount of flavonoids.

In women, there was no relationship between overall flavonoid consumption and developing Parkinson's disease, but women who regularly ate berries, which contain a sub-class of flavonoids called anthocyanins, did receive added health benefits like the men in the study.

Study author Xiang Gao, MD, PhD, with the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston said this is the first study in humans to examine the association between flavonoids and risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

"Our findings suggest that flavonoids, specifically a group called anthocyanins, may have neuroprotective effects. If confirmed, flavonoids may be a natural and healthy way to reduce your risk of developing Parkinson's disease."