Vitamin D may decrease Parkinson’s disease risk

Low Levels of Vitamin D Linked to Higher Risk of Parkinson’s Disease, Researchers Say.

Multivitamin for Men ReviewThe sunshine vitamin appears to shine a favorable light on the risk of Parkinson’s disease, according to a new study. High blood levels of vitamin D may reduce the chances of developing this neurological disease.

The finding builds on previous research linking low vitamin D levels to Parkinson’s, and could mean that getting more sunlight and assuring an adequate dietary intake of vitamin D may help some people ward off the neurological disorder.

Researchers at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki evaluated data from 3,173 men and women aged 50 to 79, and followed up over 29 years. During that time they documented 50 cases of Parkinson’s disease. Individuals who had the lowest levels of vitamin D were three times more likely to develop Parkinson’s when compared to study participants who had the highest levels.

The average serum vitamin D levels in the entire studied population were about 50% of what is considered optimal. Having low vitamin D levels may thus increase an individual’s risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease occurs when cells in an area of the brain called the substantia nigra malfunction and die. These cells produce dopamine, a chemical that sends signals to the areas of the brain that control movement and coordination. As the dopamine-producing cells die and the level of the chemical declines, the affected individual becomes unable to control his or her movements in a normal way.

Previous research has indicated that the substantia nigra contains high levels of vitamin D receptors, which suggests this vitamin has an important role in maintaining the normal function of the cells in this area of the brain.

The study’s authors point out that although they do not know the exact role vitamin D plays in Parkinson’s disease, the vitamin’s antioxidant properties could be a factor, as well as its ability to regulate calcium levels, detoxify the body, enhance conduction of electricity through nerve cells, or modulate the immune system. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked with rheumatoid arthritis, preeclampsia, bone and heart health, asthma, and other health risks.

In an editorial that accompanied the study, which was published in the Archives of Neurology, Marian Leslie Evatt, MD, MS, from Emory University in Atlanta, said the study’s results were “the first promising human data to suggest that inadequate vitamin D status is associated with the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.” Further research is necessary to identify the exact role and other factors in the relationship between vitamin D and Parkinson’s.

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Low levels of vitamin D are associated with cognitive decline

New studies show low vitamin D levels may link to cognitive decline.

Think of the health benefits of vitamin D, and you’ll probably think of bone strength. In recent years, however, the evidence that vitamin D affects more than just bones has mounted; cardiovascular disease, cancers, stroke, depression, and metabolic disorders have all been linked to low vitamin D levels. A new review adds cognitive decline and dementia to that list.

Multivitamin for Men ReviewVitamin D insufficiency has been associated with a variety of clinical disorders and chronic diseases, including impaired balance, decreased muscle strength, mood and cognitive dysfunction, autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis and diabetes (types 1 and 2), and certain forms of cancer.

This goes way beyond preventing rickets! It even goes beyond vitamin D as an immune stimulator.

The authors of a new review assessed 37 studies that evaluated vitamin D concentrations and cognitive function. The studies included various populations and age groups, but most included both men and women over 65 years of age. As part of the review, the authors conducted two meta-analyses: one to compare the mean vitamin D concentration between participants with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and controls and one to compare mean mental status scores between participants with low vitamin D levels and those with higher levels.

The authors report that participants with Alzheimer’s had significantly lower vitamin D concentrations and that mental status scores were higher among participants with higher vitamin D levels. Many factors affect vitamin D concentrations: skin pigmentation, age, genetics, sun exposure, geographic location of the participants, and time of year. Also, cognitive decline and aging may affect vitamin D levels through dietary and behavioral changes. In the brain, vitamin D has protective functions by regulating genes, directing nerve growth factor, controlling neurotransmitters, and clearing amyloid plaques (a hallmark of Alzheimer’s).

A British study, presented at the Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference in Honolulu (July 2010) showed that older men and women with low levels of vitamin D are nearly four times as likely to have problems with their memory, attention and logic.

A related report, also published July 2010 by some of the same researchers, in the Archives of Internal Medicine had similar results. It reported that older men and women with low levels of vitamin D don’t do as well on tests of reasoning, learning and memory as those with higher levels.

Participants completed interviews about their health history, had medical examinations, provided blood samples and took tests measuring thinking skills at the start of the study and again after three years and six years.

The analysis reveals that compared with participants who had sufficient vitamin D levels, those who were severely deficient experienced a substantial decline in thinking and in executive function—the ability to organize thoughts, make decisions and plan ahead.

Currently, in the United States, 15 mcg of vitamin D daily is recommended for most children and adults. Vitamin D is available in few foods and supplements are available. A fat soluble vitamin, vitamin D is relatively safe, even at high doses, but muscle pain and gastrointestinal upset can result from supplementation. There is no conclusive amount of vitamin D that protects brain heath.

The review, published in the journal Neurology, does not provide new information regarding brain health and vitamin D, but it does provide a comprehensive collection of evidence that vitamin D is, at the very least, associated with a healthy brain. Interventional studies are needed to determine just how much vitamin D guarantees a better brain.

And in case you are wondering: the authors say that the link between vitamin D deficiency and cognitive decline persisted even after adjusting for diet, health and other factors!

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