If you have Parkinson’s disease, you may wonder whether vitamins might be helpful for the condition. Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition that impacts dopamine-producing neurons in the area of the brain that controls movement. When these nerve cells become damaged or die, dopamine production is reduced, causing movement problems.
Symptoms differ from person to person but may include tremors during rest, hand tremors, other body tremors, slowness of movement (bradykinesia), limb rigidity, and issues with gait and balance.
This article will discuss different vitamins that may be beneficial for Parkinson’s disease and what evidence exists to support using them. If you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, discuss any vitamins, supplements, or herbal remedies with your healthcare professional before taking them.
Parkinson’s disease mostly affects people at about age 60, with 50% more men likely to develop the condition; however, a small percentage—4%—are diagnosed under the age of 50. About 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. While it is best to get these 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 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate vitamins and other supplements. Not all brands of vitamins and supplements are equal. Make sure to research the different brands.
Also, keep in mind that many vitamins can cause serious or life-threatening side effects if taken in large doses. Before you use 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 typically red meat, chicken, sardines, eggs, fortified cereals and bread, and nutritional yeast.
Researchers discovered that patients with early-onset Parkinson’s disease had lower vitamin B12 levels, which reduced motor and cognitive functions. In some cases, taking a multivitamin that included vitamin B12 slowed the loss of those 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 brain.
Both 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 Parkinson’s disease patients taking levodopa for the condition are also more likely to have elevated homocysteine.
In one meta-data analysis, researchers investigated the correlations between cognitive function (thinking and reasoning ability), homocysteine, folate, and vitamin B12 levels in patients with Parkinson’s disease. They discovered 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 fruit, vegetables, and the livers of animals. Vitamin E is an antioxidant found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, bell peppers, and avocados.
An 18-year study followed 41,058 subjects in Sweden. Within that population, there were 465 cases of Parkinson’s disease. Researchers evaluated vitamin C and E to determine whether antioxidants and total non-enzymatic antioxidant capacity (NEAC) were linked to a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease.
By the study’s conclusion, researchers discovered that intake of high levels of both vitamin C or E reduced the risk of Parkinson’s by 32%.
Vitamin D is a vitamin produced by the skin when exposed to ultraviolet rays from the sun. It can be found in some foods like fatty fish flesh and their liver oils, beef liver, and egg yolks. It is found in small amounts in cheese in the form of vitamin D3 and in mushrooms as vitamin D2. Certain foods are fortified with vitamin D, like dairy milk, plant-based milks, and cereals.
In one Finnish study, 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 over a 29-year follow-up period. Their vitamin D levels were assessed.
Researchers found that participants with higher vitamin D levels had a 65% lower risk of developing Parkinson’s than those with the lowest levels. The study suggested that lower vitamin D levels in mid-life may increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
Medications for Parkinson’s Disease
After you’ve received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, your doctor will develop a treatment plan based on the disease’s progression 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 medication is also taken with carbidopa so that levodopa can reach the brain and stop or reduce side effects from 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 like muscle movement and rigidity.
- Catechol O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitors block an enzyme that breaks down dopamine. They are taken with levodopa and slow 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 aid in reducing tremors and muscle stiffness.
- Amantadine was first developed as an antiviral agent and can reduce involuntary movements caused by levodopa.
- Istradefylline is an adenosine A2A receptor antagonist. It is used for people taking carbidopa and levodopa but who experience “off” symptoms.
These drugs can have a variety of 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 interact with other medications.
A Word From Verywell
Eating patterns like the Mediterranean diet that emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, olive oil, and fish can provide proper amounts of needed vitamins to prevent deficiencies. Talk to your healthcare team if you need nutritional advice, especially if you are having any difficulties with 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 you take any of these supplements, always consult with 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 the supplements.
Always consult with your doctor about how much you should take and if there are any contraindications with any prescribed medication. If you suspect you make have taken more than the recommended amount, seek medical attention.
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, illness, and trauma.