Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a debilitating, progressive movement disorder. It is the second most prevalent neurological disorder, following Alzheimer’s disease. Thanks in part to celebrity Michael J. Fox, a PD patient and ambassador, research advancement and public education has dramatically increased over the years. His foundation, along with many others, have made it their mission to find a cure for PD.
However, doctors and scientists must continue to combat PD symptoms through currently established therapies. There are a variety of medications on the market to help improve tremors, muscle rigidity, balance, and cognitive impairment in PD patients. Nevertheless, there is an immediate need to identify and resolve modifiable risk factors to protect the quality and longevity of lives.
The importance of integrative medicine
Integrative medicine is a particular healthcare approach that treats disease by addressing all imbalances in the body in a holistic manner. Nutrition is a primary component of integrative medicine, as the diet is largely responsible for ensuring our bodies are functioning properly. When considering the fact that nutritional deficiencies impair the way biochemical processes are carried out in the body, it’s crucial to address any imbalances that may contribute to the onset or outcome of chronic disease.
In recent years, researchers began taking an interest in the relationship between micronutrients and PD. For example, a newly published study assessed whether vitamin B12 deficiency is associated with impaired mobility and cognition among newly diagnosed PD patients.
Vitamin B12 at a glance
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that supports a wide range of bodily functions including properly functioning nerve cells, red blood cell formation, DNA and RNA synthesis, and heart beat regularity.
Unlike most other micronutrients, vitamin B12 is produced by microorganisms (primarily bacteria), not plants. We consume vitamin B12 through meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy. For vegetarians or vegans, vitamin B12 can be obtained through an oral supplement or intramuscular injection.
Low vitamin B12 levels are associated with a range of health consequences. Symptoms of deficiency may include the following:
- Macrocytic anemia
- Irregular heart beat
- Numbness or tingling in the extremities
- Impaired cognition
- Elevated homocysteine levels (indicator of general inflammation)
- and more…
Vitamin B12 and Parkinson’s disease
Two important components of vitamin B12 deficiency are also present in those with PD: neurological deficits and elevated homocysteine levels. This knowledge has inspired researchers to study this relationship further in recent years.
Although researchers have not found a relationship between B12 and PD onset, some observational studies suggest deficiency may negatively impact cognition, mood, and neuromuscular function in those who have already developed the disease. This research has led scientists to hypothesize that B12 may help delay disease progression in early, untreated PD.
To assess the relationship between vitamin B12 and PD progression, researchers conducted a secondary analysis of a previous randomized controlled trial. A total of 680 newly diagnosed PD patients were included in the study.
One month prior to joining the trial, all participants were required to stop any supplementation that exceeded the daily value for all micronutrients. The researchers measured the participants vitamin B12, its derivatives, and homocysteine levels. Patients received a follow up appointment every three months for a total of 24 months to assess disability progression, along with activities of daily living (ADL), cognition and motor functioning.
The researchers found that 13% of patients were borderline B12 deficient. A total of 7% experienced elevated homocysteine levels, and 2% had both low B12 and high homocysteine levels.
Those with elevated homocysteine levels experienced greater cognitive impairment at baseline and after one year (p = 0.001). Participants with lower B12 levels (< 234 pmol/L) had more severe mobility deficits than those with higher B12 levels (p < 0.004).
The researchers stated,
“Given that low B12 and elevated homocysteine can improve with vitamin supplementation, future studies should test whether prevention or early correction of these nutritionally modifiable conditions slows development of disability.”
If you are concerned you may not be getting enough B12 from your diet and would like to supplement, the Dietary Allowance for B12 is 6 mcg/day. Aria also offers vitamin B12 injections to help ensure our patients levels are optimized, in addition to therapeutic options to decrease homocystine levels naturally.
Whether struggling with a chronic health condition or simply looking to optimize your health, we are here for you. Contact us to learn more about how the team at Aria can help you reach your potential!