There is an increasing interest in the use of dietary supplements in Parkinson’s disease. However, most patients don’t know whether their intake is beneficial or not.
Here, we present the types of dietary supplements that are well studied and often been linked to Parkinson’s disease. We further discuss whether they should be used for treating Parkinson’s symptoms and what does the research say?
Parkinson’s is a motor disorder that develops when the brain lost its ability to produce a sufficient amount of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for controlled body movement. The typical symptoms of the disease include tremor, rigidity, slowness of movement, and balance problem.
Dietary supplements have been studied as alternative treatment options for Parkinson’s disease. Examples include creatine, vitamin D, vitamin E, fish oil, and coenzyme Q10. Here, we highlight results from different studies that have used these supplements and summarise whether they should be used to treat Parkinson’s symptoms.
Laboratory research on animals suggests that creatine supplementation may help to protect the brain from developing Parkinson’s-like damage. In a series of experiments, when mice were treated with a neurotoxin that causes changes in the brain like Parkinson’s, the brain showed a great loss of cells that produce dopamine. But when the mice were fed with creatine before neurotoxin, most of the brain cells survived.
However, there is no evidence of its beneficial effects on humans. One long-term clinical trial was terminated early because its supplementation was unable to cause any positive changes in patients. In this trial, a total of 1741 Parkinson’s patients from the USA and Canada were investigated for the beneficial effects of creatine. The patients were given 10 g of creatine or a placebo every day. After 5 years of follow-up, the researchers found no improvement in patients’ conditions and therefore decided to conclude the study.
SUMMARY: Although creatine supplementation may provide protection against the development of Parkinson’s disease, its intake does not treat the disease symptom.
Related post: Creatine and Parkinson’s disease – Is there a link?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble form of vitamins that provides numerous health benefits. It keeps the bones strong and healthy. Also, it’s involved in muscle growth and brain development.
Research studies are underway to find out how vitamin D could help people with Parkinson’s disease. The evidence collected so far indicates that its consumption may potentially help to relieve the non-motor symptoms.
A study that involved 182 Parkinson’s patients and 185 healthy individuals found very low levels of vitamin D in the blood of Parkinson’s patients. These patients were experiencing more falls, depression, anxiety, and sleep problems. The study suggested that vitamin D supplementation could be a potential therapeutic option for non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Similarly, in another study, higher levels of vitamin D were found to be associated with better cognition and better mood.
However, it’s still not clear whether its supplementation can treat the typical motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. To date, only one study has reported that its intake may help to improve the balance problem in patients, especially in younger patients. In this study, a high dose of vitamin D supplement for 16 weeks was found to cause a great improvement in the balance of those patients who were 66 or younger, compared with the placebo group or those patients who were 67 and older.
SUMMARY: Vitamin D supplementation might be good for non-motor symptoms. However, it should not be used with the intention of treating the typical motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Eating a sufficient amount of vitamin E is necessary for protection against many diseases, including Parkinson’s disease.
Dietary vitamin E is a rich source of antioxidants. It has the ability to protect brain cells from damage caused by oxidative stress, which leads to the loss of cells in Parkinson’s.
In the laboratory experiments, vitamin E supplementation was found to protect human brain cells involved in Parkinson’s disease. In these experiments, when brain cells were exposed to a toxic chemical that damages the brain like Parkinson’s, most cells were lost. However, the cells were rescued when given vitamin E.
Similarly, a study performed on mice showed that α-tocopherol (a form of vitamin E) treatment for 72 hours has provided better protection against the loss of cells that produce dopamine in the brain.
While results from these studies are exciting, large-scale clinical trials in humans are required before concluding that vitamin E consumption is useful or not. Currently, there is no clinical evidence to indicate that taking vitamin E can treat the typical symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
SUMMARY: Although vitamin E may protect the brain from developing Parkinson’s like changes, it’s still not clear whether its supplementation can reverse the disease state or improve the problems associated with it.
Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other essential nutrients. It is usually found in oily fishes like salmon, mackerel, cod, tuna, and anchovy. Fish oil supplementation can provide numerous health benefits. It’s used to treat certain mental and heart problems. Some people also take it for weight loss.
There is some evidence showing that fish oil may be beneficial in Parkinson’s disease. In laboratory studies performed in mice, rats and monkeys have reported that fish oil consumption can protect the brain from developing Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms.
Research on animal brains showed that fish oil helps in restoring the dopamine levels in the brain of traumatic brain injury (TBI), which is associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. In a laboratory experiment, rats with TBI were given either fish oil or olive oil for 7 days. When their brains were analyzed for changes, it was found that the fish oil-treated group had a substantial increase in the release of dopamine compared to the olive oil-treated group.
However, the therapeutic effects of fish oil in Parkinson’s patients are still uncertain. To date, only one study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, reported that fish oil supplementation could improve depression-like symptoms in Parkinson’s patients. In this study, 29 patients were given either placebo or fish oil supplements for 3 months. In the end of the study, researchers found that patients supplemented with fish oil showed a great improvement in depressive symptoms.
SUMMARY: Fish oil supplementation may relieve depressive like symptoms in Parkinson’s disease, but not helpful in treating the key symptoms of the disease.
Related post: Fish oil – Is it useful in Parkinson’s disease.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an organic compound that is abundantly present in the cells of the heart, brain, liver, and kidney. It’s an integral part of energy-producing machinery within the mitochondria and takes part in the production of ATP, commonly known as the energy currency of the cell.
Researchers have found that people with Parkinson’s have reduced levels of CoQ10. And it is because of this reason; they have been interested in finding out whether its dietary supplementation could help to treat the symptoms of the disease.
Several clinical trials have been conducted in this regard. But unfortunately, most of the results obtained so far indicate that its consumption doesn’t improve the disease symptoms.
One meta-analysis that summarised results from eight studies with a total of 899 patients reported that CoQ10 consumption caused no beneficial effects in patients. The study concluded that CoQ10 should not be considered as the routine treatment of Parkinson’s disease at the moment.
A similar finding was also reported in one long-term study conducted to find CoQ10 effects in Parkinson’s patients. The researchers of the study did not find improvement in patients’ conditions at an early stage of the study and therefore ended the trial before the planned end date.
SUMMARY: While dietary intake of CoQ10 may reduce the risk of developing of Parkinson’s disease, it does not help those who have already developed the disease.
Related post: Coenzyme Q10 – Is it useful in Parkinson’s disease.
While dietary supplements may reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, whether their intake relieves the disease’s typical symptoms is still uncertain. Some patients prefer taking supplements to manage their symptoms. However, supplementation can badly affect the efficacy of certain medications and could further exacerbate the disease condition. We therefore strongly recommend taking the advice of a health care provider before considering any supplements.
Disclaimer: The information shared here should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions presented here are not intended to treat any health conditions. For your specific medical problem, consult with your health care provider.