JAMA logoJust last week we presented a report, wherein scientists advised expecting mothers to include vitamin D in their diet. Well vitamin D now seems to be more vital for humans as a recent study claims that individuals with elevated levels of the vitamin enjoy a decreased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Vitamin D which is known to play a role in bone health seems to be associated to cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The study encompassed 3,173 Finnish men and women aged 50 to 79 years with no Parkinson’s disease at the beginning of the study, in 1978 to 1980. All the study subjects had to fill in questionnaires and interviews about socioeconomic and health background. They also went through baseline examinations and provided blood samples for vitamin D investigations.

The scientists explained, “Recently, chronically inadequate vitamin D intake was proposed to play a significant role in the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease. According to the suggested biological mechanism, Parkinson’s disease may be caused by a continuously inadequate vitamin D status leading to a chronic loss of dopaminergic neurons in the brain.”

Paul Knekt, D.P.H., and colleagues at the National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland mention that throughout the 29-year follow-up by 2009, 50 participants were registered with Parkinson’s disease. A 67 percent decreased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease was reported in individuals in the highest quartile of serum which formed one-fourth of the study population after adjusting for potentially related factors, namely physical activity and body mass index as compared to those in the lowest quartile of vitamin D levels.

The experts shared, “Despite the overall low vitamin D levels in the study population, a dose-response relationship was found. This study was carried out in Finland, an area with restricted sunlight exposure, and is thus based on a population with a continuously low vitamin D status. Accordingly, the mean [average] serum vitamin D level in the present population was about 50 percent of the suggested optimal level (75 to 80 nanomoles per liter). Our findings are thus consistent with the hypothesis that chronic inadequacy of vitamin D is a risk factor for Parkinson’s disease.”

Although the correct mechanisms allowing vitamin D levels affect Parkinson’s disease risk are a mystery, the nutrient seems to exert a protective effect on the brain through antioxidant activities, regulation of calcium levels, detoxification, modulation of the immune system and enhanced conduction of electricity through neurons. The scientists revealed that intervention trials aiming to ascertain the effects of vitamin D supplements, a follow-up on the occurrence of the Parkinson disease will be triggered.

The study is published in the July issue of Archives of Neurology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.