For many years, the relationship between serum vitamin D levels and Parkinson’s disease (PD) has been studied. For instance, in a long-term cohort study, PD incidence was 3 times higher in persons with the lowest serum vitamin D concentration (lowest quartile vs. highest quartile). Along with other neurological disorders, the particular functions of vitamin D seem to play a role in the protection against PD (for further details- see links at the bottom of this article). The obvious question for the clinician and patient is simple: will supplementing vitamin D change the outcome or have clinically meaningful benefits when given to a patient with PD?
Well, just a few weeks ago, such an experiment was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study was conducted in Japan where patients with PD were given either vitamin D3 or placebo for 12 months. The dose they used was 1,200 IU vitamin D3 per day and all patients were also on the drug Levadopa. The researchers used two different rating scales to determine the changes in the severity of PD over the 12 month trial period. As you would expect, patients given vitamin D saw a great improvement in their serum vitamin D levels (48% were considered deficient at baseline).
When the patients were tested for changes (from baseline) in their PD assessment, those given vitamin D saw no change or even a slight improvement, while those given placebo saw a significant deterioration of their PD condition. They also looked at the effect of vitamin D and placebo based on a specific variant of the vitamin D receptor (VDR) gene known to influence PD. Those patients with the gene variant that makes them more vulnerable to vitamin D-related issues (in this case the TT variant of the FokI allele) had a much more robust response to the vitamin D supplementation than patients with the other variants (CT, CC). Since vitamin D is already known to improve balance and muscle strength, the authors cannot be absolutely positive that all the measured benefits were neurological in nature, but since they are influenced by genetic variations in the vitamin D receptor- we can be fairly certain these changes are related to the supplementation of vitamin D. There were no safety issues and no apparent increase in hypercalcemia at these doses.
Since 1,200 IU (or more) of vitamin D3 is safe in nearly every patient. We believe that every patient, regardless of their PD status, should be tested for their serum D levels and supplemented with adequate levels of vitamin D3. This data should compel physicians with PD patients, to be even more urgent in those patients.
Check out our general Vitamin D recommendations in our White paper Section
Links to additional articles:
- Serum vitamin D and the risk of Parkinson disease. [Free] Arch Neurol. 2010 Jul;67(7):808-11.
- 25-hydroxyvitamin D, vitamin D receptor gene polymorphisms, and severity of Parkinson’s disease. Mov Disord. 2012 Feb;27(2):264-71.
- Sunlight exposure is important for preventing hip fractures in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or stroke. Acta Neurol Scand. 2012 Apr;125(4):279-84.
- Parkinson’s disease: mitochondrial molecular pathology, inflammation, statins, and therapeutic neuroprotective nutrition. Nutr Clin Pract. 2010 Aug;25(4):371-89.
- The Role of Vitamin D in Nervous System Health and Disease. Neuropathol Appl Neurobiol. 2013 Jan 21.