From James Beck, Ph.D., Director of Research Programs
A recent paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and picked up by the popular press provided some provocative evidence that vitamin D may provide a short term benefit to some people living with Parkinson’s disease. PDF has covered the science regarding vitamin D for some time, for example in articles featured here and here.
While the importance of vitamin D in people with PD is not new—most people with PD have too low a level—this paper now suggests that only some individuals may benefit from raising vitamin D levels. The paper's authors hypothesize that those few individuals have a variation in a protein that binds to vitamin D. They may respond better than others when their vitamin D levels are raised, which may result in a slower progression in disease symptoms. However, even the authors were notably cautious in their interpretation saying, "vitamin D supplementation may stabilize PD for a short period in patients [with the protein variation], although this effect may be nonspecific for PD."
That is, this study may help explain why vitamin D is not the cure-all for
Parkinson’s as some less reputable sources may claim. Whether this conclusion will stand the necessary scrutiny of continued research is unknown.
What I do know is that good nutrition is important for good
health, especially if you have a chronic disease like Parkinson’s. It is probably worthwhile to have your
physician check your vitamin D levels at your next physical—I did. Maybe like me, you may find out you have low
levels of vitamin D. On my doctor’s advice, I now take a few vitamin D
pills. I am not expecting much, but I
think it a good idea. Like checking the
tire pressure on your car: it is a little thing that will play a small role in
hopefully making your journey through life a bit easier.
For more information on nutrition and PD, read PDF’s Fact Sheet on Nutrition or watch PDF’s PD ExpertBriefing on Nutrition.