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High blood levels of vitamin D may reduce the risk of developing Parkinson's disease by 67 per cent, compared with low levels of the vitamin, says a new study from Finland.
Researchers from the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki analysed data from 3,173 Finnish men and women aged between 50 and 79. Over an impressive 29 years of follow-up, the researchers documented 50 cases of Parkinson's disease. The data showed that people with the lowest levels of vitamin D were three times more likely to develop Parkinson's, compared to the group with the highest levels. The study is reported to be the first longitudinal analysis of vitamin D status and the risk of Parkinson's disease.
Parkinson's disease is a degenerative condition affecting movement and balance in more than one million Americans each year, a figure expected to rise due to ageing populations. The disease affects nerve cells in several parts of the brain, particularly those that use the chemical messenger dopamine to control movement. Previous studies have shown that the part of the brain affected most by Parkinson's, the substantia nigra, contains high levels of the vitamin D receptor, which suggests vitamin D may be important for normal functions of these cells.
In an accompanying editorial, Marian Leslie Evatt, MD, MS, from Emory University in Atlanta described the study as “the first promising human data to suggest that inadequate vitamin D status is associated with the risk of developing Parkinson's disease”. The study is published in the journal Archives of Neurology Volume 67, Issue 7.