Parkinson's disease affects around one million people in the United States, according to the Parkinson's Foundation. Beyond that, the number of people who are diagnosed with the disease in the U.S. each year is in the range of 60,000. In fact, following Alzheimer's, it's the most common neurodegenerative disease.
A condition that affects a person's nervous system, the exact cause of Parkinson's isn't clear. However, there are things that you can do to try to prevent it. And according to findings from a study that was presented at the International Congress of Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders (MDS) 2022, this includes getting enough vitamin B12.
Read more about what these researchers found regarding vitamin B12 and Parkinson's disease, and for more health tips check out The #1 Eating Habit To Help With Parkinson's Disease, Says Study.
The nature of the study
In the research that involved participants from two additional studies—80,965 women from the Nurses' Health Study and 48,837 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study—all were required to answer a questionnaire.
The information provided covered the dietary habits of those involved, as well as potential supplements. Specifically, those behind the study took a look at the consumption of folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12.
The participants then took part in additional questionnaires every four years for a total of around 30 years. A follow-up showed that 495 women and 621 men who had participated in the studies had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
After noting other factors like the participants' ages, fitness habits, and aspects of their diet such as alcohol and dairy, they found that those who were consuming more vitamin B12 had a lower risk of Parkinson's disease.
How vitamin B12 can help
"This is very compelling research suggesting that B12 plays an important role in this devastating disease," Arielle Levitan M.D., co-founder of Vous Vitamin LLC, and author of The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear the Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health, tells Eat This, Not That!
"The fact that B12 likely plays a role in preventing PD is not surprising, given we know B12 is essential for optimal nerve function," Levitan explains. "High plasma homocysteine levels are harmful to brain and nerve function and consuming B12 is known to lower these levels. It seems plausible that B12 helps our nerves work smoothly and transmit the brain's messages to other parts of the body."
What this means for you
When it comes to how much vitamin B12 you should be getting, Levitan notes that it "varies depending" on a person's "individual needs."
While you can always try to increase your B12 level with supplements, Levitan says, "ideally one should get B12 from diet, but this is often challenging. B12 is found in many meat and dairy products, so those who are vegetarian or vegan are often deficient."
Levitan also notes that "many people need to supplement B12 because we often don't absorb it as well as we used to with age." On top of that, "anyone with GI conditions such as celiac, Crohns, or colitis are known to be very low in B12." That's why she adds, "In short, many people benefit from taking some amount of B12 via supplement."