The Need for Vitamin D in PD: By Dr. De Leon

“Them bones…them bones..”

Now that we just spent the last week or so traveling, spending time with family, and of course indulging in that delicious Thanksgiving meal is time to get back to basics especially as winter months approach where days are shorter with fewer hours of sunshine.  Are you getting enough Vitamin D in your diet?

Many recent studies show this essential vitamin to be low or deficient in many of us with chronic illnesses like diabetes, lupus, and of course Parkinson’s disease among others. In fact, as per Archives of Neurology Vitamin D is so compromised in PD patients that roughly 1/2 of the people with PD have  Vitamin D insufficient, while a 1/4 have show a clear deficiency.
[The Endocrine Society
 uses the following guidelines for vitamin D blood levels in adults and children:
Vitamin D deficiency-20ng/ml or less
Vitamin D insufficiency- 21-29ng/ml
Vitamin D sufficiency – 30ng/ml or greater (NL) ]

Thus, if your Vitamin D levels have not been checked recently by your health provider they should be; plus you should have vitamin supplement in your medicine cabinet. The reason for this is not only that most of us with chronic illnesses have a deficiency but even for those of us who are otherwise healthy can’t seem to get enough of it as per recent studies despite being present in many ordinary foods we eat. Some of the reasons for insufficiency despite adequate nutrition is small quantities in food and although we should be able to absorb what we need from the sun rays. It seems many of us at least in this country are not getting enough sunlight perhaps because we have become more indoor and sedentary and when we are outdoors we wear more UV light protective clothing and make up.

So why is Vitamin D such a big deal?

Well I think we all know about its relationship to calcium and strong bones. When its deficient we are more prone to fractures a common problem with PD especially since we are more likely to have falls as disease advances.

Vitamin D is also a key to boosting our immune system and reducing inflammation – this may be one of the crucial treatments in helping those with LLRK2 gene carriers to help with PD symptoms ( still not fully understood role of inflammation in this subtype). another reason to take Vitamin D supplement is the studies which suggest a decrease in blood sugars ( in type 2 diabetics) in those with higher Vitamin D levels. As I have mentioned before, people with PD are more likely to develop insulin resistance due to dopamine replacement which can potentially lead to diabetes; especially in those of us who are already at risk. Thus having a higher level of Vitamin D in your system can lower your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, Vitamin D is also important in memory and fatigue but it does not stop there. Early reports have suggested problems in kidney, nerves, and eyes with low levels.

If you have had gastric bypass, inflammatory bowel disease, have dark skin, are obese, older, or have limited exposure to sun are at an even higher risk of having severe deficiency when compounded with PD.

According to the USDA fatty fish ( e.g. salmon) is a top source as well as eggs (yolks), and liver (beef). many of us believe that milk is an excellent source of calcium although vitamin D fortified in order to get dietary needs met you would have to consume 13 cups daily.

  • The Endocrine Society- recommends 1,500 IU while NIH suggests 600 IU –
  • Look for supplements labeled D3- same as body makes
  • Eat a fat source such as peanut butter, avocado, or egg with supplement to better absorb the vitamin
  • Try to gauge how much vitamin D you need

However, in the end the best way to determine how much supplement you need is by talking to your physician first.



“The Need for Vitamin D”: Diabetic Living. (winter 2016), 56-57.

Devere Ronald, MD FAAN, “Cognitive Consequences of Vitamin D Deficiency”, Practical Neurology,Vol. 13, No.1,January/February2014.

“Low Vitamin D levels Associated with Parkinson’s Disease’, Parkinson’s Disease Foundation News & Review, winter 2009


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