Studies shedding light on vitamin D - Parkinson's link

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Marian Evatt, MD:
Studies shedding light on vitamin D - Parkinson’s link

Doctors have known for decades that vitamin D promotes calcium uptake and bone formation, but evidence is accumulating that it regulates the immune system and the development of the nervous system. In fact, growing evidence suggests a link between low vitamin D levels and Parkinson's disease, but whether this is a cause-and-effect relationship is unknown.

That’s why neurologist Marian Evatt, MD, and her colleagues are conducting a clinical trial exploring the effects of vitamin D supplementation on patients with Parkinson's disease who have low vitamin D levels. The study also includes further epidemiological studies of vitamin D in Parkinson's disease.

Vitamin D is called a vitamin, but that’s a misnomer. It’s actually a steroid hormone, which we make by exposing our skin to sunshine. But no matter what it’s called, vitamin D is fundamental for growth, development, and cell maintenance throughout life, and even before birth.

Parkinson's disease affects nerve cells in several parts of the brain, particularly those that use the chemical messenger dopamine to control movement. The most common symptoms are tremor, stiffness and slowness of movement.

In addition to getting vitamin D from sunshine, fatty fish or fortified foods such as milk and cereals can be a good source of D. “Vitamin D has become associated with many chronic diseases: diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and some of the autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis,” says Evatt. “But we haven’t yet determined the specific effect of vitamin D in specific conditions because it has such broad effects.”

To hear Evatt talk about what vitamin D is, what it does, and why we need it, use the player at the top of this page or subscribe to the podcast.