Diet and Nutrition

Vitamin D May Help Improve Balance in Younger Parkinson's Patients

Studies have found that vitamin D supplements are restoring balance in younger Parkinson's patients.

Vitamin D May Help Improve Balance in Younger Parkinson's Patients

Can vitamin D help your Parkinson’s balance symptoms subside? It is highly possible. Vitamin D is a natural, anti-inflammatory that is consumable. You can lower the amount of C-reactive protein or the protein that is responsible for most types of inflammation by supplementing your diet with vitamin D.

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder in the nervous system, and it affects a patient's movement and balance. It sometimes starts with a slight tremor in one hand or a finger of one hand. Tremors are one of the most common symptoms, but you may also have stiffness or begin to walk much slower than usual.

In the beginning, Parkinson's may cause your arms to not swing when you walk, and your face may not show any expression. Speech may also be slurred. As your Parkinson’s disease progresses, symptoms begin to get worse.

Parkinson’s disease has no cure, but some medications and therapies might improve your symptoms. Once in a while, medical doctors may recommend surgery to adjust certain parts of your brain to improve your symptoms.

Vitamin D is also great for reducing pain and stress on your joints. It is key to helping you fight obesity if you eat healthy foods and exercise regularly. Studies have found that the less vitamin D you consume, the more likely you will become overweight.

Vitamin D is excellent for preventing some types of cancers by promoting cellular differentiation and slowing down the rate cells multiply. Vitamin D will also help the body secrete insulin and vitamin D can protect you against hyperglycemia and help you avoid diabetes.

Vitamin D maintains brain function. Studies have observed that vitamin D does preserve brain functions in older people and those with a family history, or a high-risk, of Parkinson’s disease. Vitamin D also keeps your brain functioning properly. According to the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, vitamin D maintains the brain's ability to function in your old age. Vitamin D will help neurons and signaling pathways function. Vitamin D’s ability to improve your brain will give you a heads up on preventing Alzheimer’s disease. If you are unfortunate to develop Parkinson’s disease, vitamin D will help you maintain a better lifestyle.

Balance Problems and Parkinson’s

One of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease is issues with balance. Patients have a high risk of falling due to balance problems. Almost 70 percent of Parkinson’s patients will fall at least one time in a year. Falls are particularly dangerous for Parkinson’s patients as they can cause substantial injuries, hospitalization, and disability. Right now, there is no pharmaceutical or surgical solution to improve balance. 

You may be wondering how falls can cause problems with lifestyle. Parkinson’s causes more than just financial issues.  Physical mobility is just as important to those with Parkinson’s disease, and it has been found that it is one of the most critical factors that causes a decline in a patient's quality of life. Fear of falling is associated with feelings of anxiety and depression. Those with Parkinson’s disease fear that they will fall, and this feeling leads to lowered activities and less social interaction.

Preliminary studies show that short-term, but high doses, of vitamin D supplements, may improve balance in those with Parkinson’s disease, younger than 66.  This study entitled, A Randomized, Controlled Pilot Study of the Effects of Vitamin D Supplementation on Balance in Parkinson’s Disease: Does Age Matter was recently published in Plos One.

Studies following osteoporosis in men found that 21% of men with PD were vitamin D deficient and 50% were insufficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency in those with Parkinson’s is prevalent in older men with more advanced PD. Rates of vitamin D deficiency is as high as 78%. The conclusions? Men with PD and older are at high risk of balance issues, falling, and osteoporosis.

Studies have proven that vitamin D helps reduce falls and improve balance in older patients. However, while medical providers suggest that higher doses of vitamin D may be more effective than lower doses for all ages, evidence suggests that higher doses may cause an opposite effect for older people. High doses of vitamin D may actually contribute to frequent falls and broken bones, if the patient is over 66 years of age. More studies need to be conducted to see why this anomaly occurs.

What the Study Found

A double-blind placebo study evaluated the effectiveness and safety of high doses of vitamin D on gait, fall, strength, cognition, and balance in a group of Parkinson’s patients. How progressive the disease was and the quality of life in participants were taken into consideration.

Fifty-one participants at a median age of 66.7 years were randomly selected to receive a high dose of vitamin D or a placebo. Additionally, these participants were also given 1,000 mg of calcium daily for the four months of the study.

The Sensory Organization Test (SOT) was used to measure primary balance function when supplementing vitamin D. The results proved that vitamin D supplements doubled patient’s vitamin D blood levels after four months of treatment. The patients who receive the placebo had no substantial changes in their levels of vitamin D.

Those who received high doses of vitamin D supplements showed no significant improvement in balance compared with those in the placebo group. There were also no significant changes found for gait, strength, disease severity, quality of life or cognition between the two groups.

Researchers, however, further divided the patients into two age groups - those who were 66 or younger and those who were 67 and older. When the younger group was supplemented with high doses of vitamin D, their balance was highly improved. The older group had no significant improvement in balance. Again, this is an exciting discovery and bars more research.

Regardless of the balance issues, high-dose vitamin D supplementation seems to be safe and has no severe side effects. The findings of this study also proves that age plays an essential role in the effectiveness of vitamin D supplements.

Research improving all the time that vitamin D is a “wonder “drug. No matter your age, if you are at risk of Parkinson’s disease, take supplements of vitamin D, get out in the sunshine and keep eating a good diet and getting moderate exercise to ease your symptoms.