If you have Parkinson’s disease, you may be wondering if vitamins might help the disease. Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that affects dopamine-producing neurons in the area of the brain that controls movement. When these nerve cells are damaged or die, dopamine production is reduced, leading to problems with movement.
Symptoms differ from person to person, but may include tremors at rest, hand tremors, other body tremors, slowness of movement (bradykinesia), stiffness of limbs, and problems with gait and movement. ‘balance.
This article will discuss the different vitamins that may benefit Parkinson’s disease and the evidence that exists to support their use. If you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, discuss vitamins, supplements, or herbal remedies with your healthcare professional before taking them.
Parkinson’s disease mainly affects people around the age of 60, with men 50% more likely to develop the disease; however, a small percentage – 4% – is diagnosed before the age of 50. Approximately 60,000 people are diagnosed each year in the United States with Parkinson’s disease.
Vitamins for Parkinson’s disease
Apart from traditional pharmaceutical treatments, if you have Parkinson’s disease, your doctor may recommend vitamins with antioxidant properties. Although it is best to get them from food sources as part of a healthy, balanced diet, some people need to take supplements. These vitamins include:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
Please note that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate vitamins and other supplements. Not all vitamin and supplement brands are created equal. Be sure to research the different brands.
Also keep in mind that many vitamins can cause serious and even fatal side effects if taken in high doses. Before using multivitamins, tell your doctor about all your medical conditions and possible allergies.
Vitamin B12 and folate
Vitamin B12 is an antioxidant. It helps keep red blood cells and nerve cells healthy and helps produce DNA. Sources of vitamin B12 are usually red meat, chicken, sardines, eggs, fortified cereals and breads, and nutritional yeast.
Researchers found that patients with early-stage Parkinson’s disease had lower vitamin B12 levels, which reduced motor and cognitive functions. In some cases, taking a multivitamin containing vitamin B12 slowed the loss of these functions.
Folate (vitamin B9) is found in organ meats (like liver and kidney), yeast, and leafy green vegetables. Folate plays several roles in the body and the brain.
B12 and folate are involved in the metabolism of homocysteine, an amino acid. High levels of homocysteine are seen in various cognitive disorders. Studies show that patients with Parkinson’s disease taking levodopa for this disease are also more likely to have elevated homocysteine.
In a metadata analysis, researchers investigated correlations between cognitive function (thinking and reasoning ability), homocysteine, folate and vitamin B12 levels in patients with Parkinson’s disease. They found that patients with cognitive dysfunction had high levels of homocysteine and lower levels of folate and vitamin B12.
Vitamin C and Vitamin E
Vitamin C is found in fruits, vegetables and the liver of animals. Vitamin E is an antioxidant found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, peppers and avocados.
An 18-year study followed 41,058 subjects in Sweden. Within this population, there were 465 cases of Parkinson’s disease. The researchers assessed vitamins C and E to determine whether antioxidants and total non-enzymatic antioxidant capacity (NEAC) were linked to a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease.
At the end of the study, researchers found that consuming high levels of vitamin C or E reduced the risk of Parkinson’s disease by 32%.
Vitamin D is a vitamin produced by the skin when exposed to ultraviolet rays from the sun. It can be found in certain foods like the flesh of fatty fish and their liver oils, beef liver and egg yolks. It is found in small amounts in cheese as vitamin D3 and in mushrooms as vitamin D2. Some foods are fortified with vitamin D, such as dairy milk, plant milks and cereals.
In a study from Finland, the link between vitamin D levels in middle age and the risk of Parkinson’s disease was examined with 3,173 participants. Fifty of the participants developed Parkinson’s disease during a 29-year follow-up period. Their vitamin D levels were assessed.
The researchers found that participants with high levels of vitamin D had a 65% lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease than those with the lowest levels. The study suggested that lower levels of vitamin D in mid-life may increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
Medicines for Parkinson’s disease
After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, your doctor will develop a treatment plan based on the progression of the disease at the time you were diagnosed. Current pharmaceutical treatments include:
- Levodopa is a primary treatment for movement, tremors and stiffness. Levodopa helps nerve cells make dopamine. This drug is also taken with carbidopa so that the levodopa can reach the brain and stop or reduce side effects of the drug, such as vomiting, nausea, and low blood pressure.
- Dopamine agonists mimic dopamine in the brain but are not as effective as levodopa in controlling symptoms such as muscle movement and stiffness.
- Catechol O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitors block an enzyme that breaks down dopamine. They are taken with levodopa and slow down the body’s ability to get rid of levodopa.
- MAO B inhibitors block monoamine oxidase B (MAO B), a brain enzyme that breaks down dopamine. This allows dopamine to have longer lasting effects.
- Anticholinergics help reduce tremors and muscle stiffness.
- Amantadine was first developed as an antiviral agent and may reduce involuntary movements caused by levodopa.
- Istradefylline is an A2A adenosine receptor antagonist. It is used for people taking carbidopa and levodopa but who have “off” symptoms.
These drugs can have various side effects. Be sure to discuss your medications with your doctor so you understand how and when to take them, what side effects may occur, and when to report any concerning side effects.
Some studies have shown a relationship between low levels of certain vitamins and the risk of Parkinson’s disease or its symptoms. Vitamins B12, C, D, E and folate can be found in a variety of foods. Discuss any supplements with your doctor, as taking large amounts may be harmful or may interact with other medications.
A word from Verywell
Eating habits like the Mediterranean diet that emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, olive oil, and fish can provide the appropriate amounts of vitamins needed to prevent deficiencies. Talk to your healthcare team if you need nutritional advice, especially if you are having difficulty eating or swallowing.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are other natural treatments for Parkinson’s disease?
Other supplements to consider include calcium, coenzyme Q-10, ginger, green tea polyphenols, milk thistle, and St. John’s wort. Before taking any of these supplements, always consult your doctor.
Can you overdose on vitamins?
Multivitamin supplements can be toxic in large amounts. The most serious risk comes from iron or calcium in supplements.
Always consult your doctor about how much you should take and if there are any contraindications to any prescribed medication. If you think you have taken more than the recommended amount, consult a doctor.
Is Parkinson’s disease preventable?
No. The exact causes are not known and it is not preventable. Researchers believe that Parkinson’s disease may be caused by a combination of genetic predisposition and exposure to toxins, disease and trauma.