Vitamin D…Again?

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.

2 thoughts on “Vitamin D…Again?

  1. Parkinson's Humor by Yuma Bev

    My Vitamin D levels are consistently on the low side, even though I live in extremely sunny Yuma Arizona and take supplements in pill form. A recent visit to a compounding pharmacist shed some light on my problem; people with Parkinson’s often have “gut absorption problems” so this pharmacist prescribed Vitamin D drops (each drop has 2000 units) and I put these drops under my tongue instead of swallowing big horse pills. I have a feeling these drops will increase my levels, plus they are easier to take (unless I miss my mouth) and at $20 for 900 drops, reasonably priced.

  2. Dr. James Beck

    Interesting and good you found a solution (ha!). Something to keep in mind is that Vitamin D is fat soluble. So taking it with a meal with fats will improve absorption. Vit D is also sold in oil filled “soft gels” (the oil in the kind I take is soybean oil), which might not only be easier to swallow but should help with the absorption issue too. Good luck!


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