Vitamin D3: How important is it to people with Parkinson’s?
A personal experience with prescribed supplementation by Lionel Paulo
When I was diagnosed with PD a few years ago I spent some time looking at nutritional options and tried several things in the hope that I could avoid taking medicinal drugs. I did not have much luck with that but did have an incredible experience with vitamin D3, otherwise known as cholecalciferol. Vegans may prefer Vitamin D2 or ergocalciferol as it is found in plants and some food supplements contain this form, but note that a recent meta-analysis of 50 studies which included 90,000 people did a comparison of mortality and relative risk reduction between participants taking either D3 or D2. The outcomes were a relative risk reduction of 6% for D3, but the relative mortality risk increased by 2% for the D2 group, so best to use D3. For full details go here:http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/02/23/oral-vitamin-d-mistake.aspx
A recent article in the New Scientist reporting on research that was done at the university of Oxford autumn 2011 linked vitamin D deficiency to a wide array of health problems including MS, asthma, osteoporosis, rickets, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, several cancers, loss of cognitive function, various auto-immune conditions (for example 86% of rheumatology patients were found to be D deficient), and many more. Genetic research suggests more than 2,700 gene sites are influenced by our levels of D. For more information try:http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21671-immune-retune-good-day-sunshine.html
Surprised that one vitamin has such a vast influence on our health? Well, the truth is that vitamin D is not really a vitamin! Actually, it is a hormone that is produced in the skin from 7-dehydrocholesterol when we are exposed to ultraviolet radiation (i.e. sunshine). Mad dogs and Englishmen used to go out in the midday sun and maybe the dogs still do, but today people often avoid the sun and put on suncream, and if you do that you will produce very little vitamin D, possibly none at all. Also, people with darker skins produce less Vitamin D than people with pale skin. Ethnic diets such as the traditional Asian diet tend to be low in D but that’s not a problem where there is plenty of sunshine. The problems of low D levels eventually surface for those people that live in the much-less-sunny UK and choose to eat the traditional diet without adding in foods that contain D (being fat-soluble it is found in fatty foods such as oily fish or the nasty-tasting Cod Liver oil that we had to endure as schoolchildren a long time ago!).
Consider the impact hormones within us have: It’s common knowledge that Insulin deficit causes Diabetes, shortages of Thyroxin cause metabolic problems etc. so we can see why D3 deficits cause so many problems when we view it as a hormone. Yet until recently vitamin supplements contained 400 IU of D and a warning not to take more. The fear of overdosing flew in the face of research which showed no evidence of hypercalcemia (too much calcium in the blood) and hypercalciuria (too much calcium in the urine) in doses up to 11000 IU per day (ref: The European Food Safety Journal.) The EU Panel on Dietetic Products increased their upper tolerable limit to 4000 IU per day based on this information, still well below the safe limit.
Following are two links to articles about Parkinson’s and D3 deficiency, picked at random from thousands on the internet: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2010/07/13/vitamin-d-deficiency-linked-to-parkinsons-disease-cognitive-decline/http://www.ehow.com/how_5707133_vitamin-treat-symptoms-parkinson_s-disease.html
The link below goes to a more technical paper – note the use of vitamin K-2 as a co-factor to increase D3 absorption.http://www.wjgnet.com/2218-5836/pdf/v3/i9/137.pdf
A couple of things to consider: Certain drugs further deplete the body of D, especially steroids (including inhaled ones), anti-epilepsy drugs etc. Also, people who suffer from chronic kidney impairment are less able to metabolise vitamin D properly, so they are more likely to be D3 deficient. Ask your GP about eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate). If it is below 60 ml/min, you would fall in the stage 3 (or higher) category of chronic kidney disease (called CKD 3 which is very common in older people, especially if they suffer with high blood pressure and/or diabetes, and also take medication that may affect kidney function). It’s something to discuss with your GP, including your vitamin D levels, and whether supplementing would be beneficial or not for you.
The main questions are: Does lack of D cause Parkinson’s, or is it a side-effect of the disease, and does raising levels in the body up to the normal range benefit Parkinson’s people? And the answers are: We don’t know for sure, but in light of the many functions that are improved by having normal levels in normal people it is probably worthwhile to raise levels to the normal range for Parkinson’s people as well – and that brings me to the truly incredible experience I mentioned earlier. Please remember this was done under strict medical guidance so DO NOT ATTEMPT TO COPY THIS WITHOUT THE SAME MEDICAL DIRECTION AND MONITORING!
My blood tests revealed an increase in vitamin D levels of 91 nmol/l within a 4 week period, and this was accomplished by taking 100,000 IU of D3 PER DAY!! This amount would almost certainly be lethal to most people, so it would suggest that my body was absorbing only a small percentage of it. Since then I have taken a maintenance dose of 5,000 IU per day. I would not recommend such an extreme course of action as I took but that was controlled by the doctor I dealt with at the time. The lesson I learned from this is that conventional nutritional advice such as recommended daily intakes of vitamins, minerals etc. may not necessarily be adequate for people like us.
So to the punch line: Did I notice any difference after this massive intake? No I did not! At the time I was still able-bodied, perhaps it would make a difference to me now but I think I will leave it to someone else to try!
For much more information on vitamin D try this resource:http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Deficiencies_as_PD_cause/Vitamin_D