Dr. Marian Evatt, an assistant professor of neurology at Emory University and author of an accompanying editorial, said that "vitamin D regulates a tremendous number of physiologic processes critical for normal growth, development and survival of human cells, and animal data suggests that this includes development, growth and survival of cells in the nervous system."
However, the animal data also suggests that there may be a range of vitamin D levels that are optimal and if cells are exposed to levels above or below that level, life is not so good, she said.
This study is the first study examining vitamin D levels in a population, then looking at whether there is subsequent associated risk of developing Parkinson's disease, Evatt added.
"Further studies are warranted to see if these findings can be duplicated in other populations," Evatt concluded.
Still another report, published in the July issue of the Archives of Neurology, found that eating foods rich in vitamin E might help stave off dementia and Alzheimer's disease. These foods included margarine, sunflower oil, butter, cooking fat and soybean oil.
For the study, researchers led by Elizabeth E. Devore, from Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, collected data on the diets of almost 5,400 people 55 years and older who did not have dementia between 1990 and 1993. Over an average of 9.6 years of follow-up, 465 of these individuals developed dementia, and 365 of these were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, the researchers reported.
Devore's team found that those who consumed the most vitamin E (one-third of the participants) were 25 percent less likely to develop dementia, compared with the third who consumed the least.
"The brain is a site of high metabolic activity, which makes it vulnerable to oxidative damage, and slow accumulation of such damage over a lifetime may contribute
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