Vitamin D status linked to Parkinson’s symptoms

Health News — New evidence suggests that low vitamin D status plays an important role in the development of Parkinson’s Disease and a corresponding increase in the frequency of falls and insomnia.

The scientists also implicate the neurodegenerative condition in a higher risk of depression, anxiety and a lower mean bone mass density (BMD) of the lumbar spine and femoral neck.

“These results indicate that vitamin D deficiency may play a role in Parkinson’s Disease [PD] pathogenesis, while vitamin D supplementation may be used to treat the non‐motor symptoms of PD,”​ says the team from Soochow University in China.

Initial findings

The team began by enrolling 182 patients with PD and 185 healthy controls. Serum vitamin D [25(OH)D] levels were measured along with BMD of the lumbar spine and femoral neck. They found that:

  • Parkinson’s patients had significantly lower serum 25(OH)D levels relative to healthy controls
  • Those with lower vitamin D levels had a significantly higher frequency of falls and insomnia
  • They also had significantly more depression and anxiety
  • People with Parkinson’s also had a significantly lower mean BMD of the lumbar spine and femoral neck

These findings remained true even after adjusting for age, sex, and body mass index.

Symptoms of deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency is widespread in people with neurodegenerative diseases; studies showing around 55% of patients with Parkinson’s , 41% of those with Alzheimer’s have low levels – compared to 36% of a control population.

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Vitamin D also has a vital role in bone metabolism and a lack of vitamin D which can help explain the increased risk of falls and fractures found in this study.

Studies have also shown that vitamin D levels are associated with cognition and mood in patients with Parkinson’s as well as gastrointestinal dysfunction, mainly delayed gastric emptying time.

Regarding the increase in falls, the authors write: “The most commonly cited theory for the connection between falls and vitamin D levels is related to reduced muscle mass and strength.”​

Connections between vitamin D, mood and sleep disorders are a little less clear.

The researchers also acknowledge a limitation of the study, having only evaluated 25(OH)D levels. An assortment of different sources of vitamin D, open up possibilities that different vitamin D forms may produce other results. They note, also, that vitamin D levels decrease and can be affected by many variables including vitamin D‐rich food intake, sunlight exposure and skin colour. These things, they say, require more careful study.

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The study appeared in the journal Acta Neurologica Scandinavica​.