Past research has indicated that their may be a link between low vitamin D levels and Parkinson’s Disease, but a cause-and-effect relationship between the two has never been established. However, a recent study discussed in a July 2010 Archives of Neurology editorial (written by assistance professor of neurology at Emory University School of Medicine, Marian Evatt, MD) demonstrates a significant need for additional research on whether vitamin D supplements can help prevent Parkinson’s.
The study is the first to demonstrate that low vitamin D levels are a telling factor in predicting a person’s likelihood for developing Parkinson’s Disease. The study tested vitamin D levels in blood samples taken from over 3000 people from 1978-90 and followed the participants to observe whether Parkinson’s was developed later in life. A fairly telling result was witnessed – participants with the lowest vitamin D levels were 3x more likely to develop Parkinson’s when compared to individuals in the group with the highest vitamin D levels.
Dr. Evatt believes that vitamin D may help prevent the gradual degradation of neurons displayed in people with Parkinson’s. Neurons that are typically lost over time in individuals suffering from Parkinson’s are responsible for production of dopamine to help control movement, which is why stiffness, tremor, and general slow movement are common symptoms of the disease. Recent research conducted on animals, however, suggests that vitamin D may be able to help protect these neurons.
Dr. Evatt and her colleagues are currently holding a pilot clinical trial to explore the effects of vitamin D supplements on Parkinson’s patients with low vitamin D levels. She is also involved in research and epidemiological studies of the vitamin’s effects on the disease. In her editorial, Dr. Evatt makes a recommendation for raising the target/recommended vitamin D levels due to its obvious benefits for bone health and potential benefits to the nervous system.
If you’re interested in making sure your vitamin D levels are where they should be, fish such as salmon and tuna, milk, mushrooms and exposure to sunlight are good sources of vitamin D.