Parkinson’s disease is a common cause of debilitating complaints in predominantly older people. They experience successively increasing problems with stiffness and tremor. Two celebrities affected by the disease are Muhammed Ali and Michael J. Fox.
The cause is death of neurons in the brain that govern motor control. The treatment is providing dopamine supplements in various ways, which increases the activity in the remaining nerve cells. It’s effective as long as sufficient nerve cells remain (in early stages of the disease), but in the long run it’s less successful.
Now there may be a new addition to the arsenal of treatment. This is another application for Vitamin D, in which many people are deficient.
A new study tested supplementation of 1200 IU daily (as compared with placebo) over a year’s time, to patients with Parkinson’s. Only the control group experienced the typical successive worsening of symptoms, while the Vitamin D group did not.
What is the cause?
The discovery is exciting but it isn’t necessarily Parkinson’s disease in itself that is being stopped. Vitamin D supplementation has been shown before to improve muscle strength in elderly people [1 2], as well as reducing the risk of falling [1 2 3 4]. In younger subjects it may improve athletic performance. All of these effects may be connected to an observed increase in the testosterone levels in the bodies of Vitamin D-deficient people given supplements.
Thus, Vitamin D supplements have been shown to have a positive effect on muscle strength and balance in the elderly. It may be this effect that we see in the study on Parkinson’s disease. Or there may be an additional positive effect.
Either way, it appears wise for elderly people who want to improve their mobility to avoid Vitamin D deficiency. Whether they have Parkinsson’s disease or not.
Do you know someone who could benefit from knowing this?