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March 18, 2011

Vitamin D insufficiency could play a role in the development of Parkinson's disease

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Researchers at Emory University report in the March, 2011 issue of Archives of Neurology the finding of a correlation between insufficient levels of vitamin D and the development of early Parkinson's disease (PD).

In the article's background information, Marian L. Evatt, MD, MS of Emory University School of Medicine and the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center and colleagues remark that "Vitamin D insufficiency has been reported to be more common in patients with Parkinson's disease than in healthy control subjects, but it is not clear whether having a chronic disease causing reduced mobility contributes to this relatively high prevalence."

The study included 157 placebo recipients who participated in The Deprenyl and Tocopherol Antioxidative Therapy of Parkinsonism (DATATOP) trial of men and women with early, untreated Parkinson's disease. Blood samples obtained upon enrollment and at the final visit after 13 months were analyzed for levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D.

A high percentage of subjects had vitamin D insufficiency or deficiency at both points of the study. While 69.4 percent had vitamin D insufficiency defined as levels of less than 30 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) at the beginning of the study, 26.1 percent were classified as deficient with levels of less than 20 ng/mL. The prevalence of insufficiency at the final visit was 51.6 percent, and deficiency occurred in 7 percent.

"Previous studies in Asian populations reported a higher prevalence of hypovitaminosis D (deficiency or insufficiency) in patients with more advanced disease, suggesting that long-term effects of Parkinson's disease may contribute to the development of insufficient vitamin D concentrations," the authors write. "Contrary to our expectation that vitamin D levels might decrease over time because of disease-related inactivity and reduced sun exposure, vitamin D levels increased over the study period. These findings are consistent with the possibility that long-term insufficiency is present before the clinical manifestations of Parkinson's disease and may play a role in the pathogenesis of PD."

"To our knowledge, the study cohort is the largest and most well-characterized cohort of patients with PD in whom vitamin D status has been investigated," they observe. "We confirm a high prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency in patients with recent onset of PD, during the early clinical stages in which patients do not require symptomatic therapy."

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Health Concern Life Extension Highlight

Parkinson's disease

Parkinson’s disease (and parkinsonism) presents a challenge for both the conventional physician and the alternative medicine physician. You should not try to manage Parkinson’s disease on your own; always consult a physician if you have symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The Life Extension Foundation recommends the following supplements, which may help postpone the initiation of levodopa therapy, for patients who are in the disease’s early stages:

  • CoQ10—1200 to 2400 milligrams (mg)/day
  • ALC—1000 to 2000 mg/day
  • Vitamin E—400 to 800 international units (IU)/day of alpha-tocopherol with at least 200 mg/day of gamma-tocopherol
  • Vitamin C—1000 to 5000 mg/day
  • Grape seed extract—100 to 300 mg/day
  • Ginkgo biloba—120 mg/day
  • Green tea extract—at least 725 mg/day (93 percent or higher in polyphenols)
  • Glutathione—250 to 500 mg/day
  • Cysteine—500 to 1200 mg/day
  • Selenium—200 micrograms (mcg)/day
  • Lipoic acid—150 to 600 mg/day
  • Aged garlic extract—600 to 1200 mg/day
  • Melatonin—3 mcg/day to 10 mg/day (taken at night)
  • Tyrosine—500 to 1000 mg/day
  • Phenylalanine—500 to 1000 mg/day
  • NADH—5 to 10 mg/day
  • B complex—at least 50 mg/day of riboflavin, 75 mg/day of vitamin B6, and 8700 mcg/day of folic acid
  • DHEA—25 to 50 mg/day (increase dose according to blood test results)
  • PS—100 to 300 mg/day
  • Fish oil—at least 700 to 1400 mg/day of EPA and 500 to 1000 mg/day of DHA

In addition, strong coffee upon waking has been shown to reduce symptoms. A number of prescription drugs, including MAO inhibitors and dopamine agonists, may also be used as monotherapy early in the disease to postpone levodopa therapy. Because of the risk of adverse effects, patients who have Parkinson’s disease, or people who suspect that they may have Parkinson’s disease, should work closely with a physician to determine their optimal dosages of these supplements. Finally, it’s important to maintain a “clean” diet and get regular, moderate exercise.

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