Parkinson’s disease is a common nerve disease, and it is caused by deterioration of brain cells that produce dopamine. It is characterized by tremors, muscle rigidity, shuffling gait, slow speech, and a mask-like facial expression. In addition, even simple movements may become difficult for the person suffering from the disease. And, the disease is a killer that takes the lives of 14,593 per year. So how do we prevent it? In this blog, I will explain the disease, show what the research says about sunlight, and make recommendations for prevention.
Research points out that Sun exposure is the key to prevention of Parkinson’s disease.
Several studies have shown that there is a close association between sunlight exposure, blood vitamin D levels and Parkinson’s. First of all, one paper showed that when vitamin D levels are low, there is a tripling of the risk. Another study from China demonstrated that persons with highest levels of blood vitamin D had a 48% decrease in risk. And, that same research demonstrated that those receiving the greatest sun exposure had about a 47% decrease in risk. So, based on those findings, one might think that vitamin D supplements could prevent the disease. Yet, that thought is erroneous. Sun exposure is the direct key for preventing this debilitating disease.
Vitamin D supplements do not stop Parkinson’s, so how can that be?
Recent research, a systematic review and meta-analysis, is most noteworthy. And it explains this interesting paradox. It showed that sun exposure was significantly associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson’s. Especially relevant is the fact that those persons with plenty of sun exposure had only 1/50 the risk of Parkinson’s. That is an astounding figure! However, although vitamin D supplements were effective in raising vitamin D levels, they had no significant benefits for Parkinson’s disease.
Vitamin D and sun exposure are not the same.
While sun exposure and supplements both raise vitamin D levels, supplements are no help to Parkinson’s sufferers. Hence, we must look beyond vitamin D for an answer. Sun exposure leads to the production of vitamin D, but it also leads to the production of dopamine. Dopamine, as previously mentioned, is a vital chemical for the brain as regards Parkinson’s. Vitamin D is a marvelous, vital photoproduct and is due to sun exposure. It is vital for human health. However, it appears that vitamin D does nothing for Parkinson’s. Most of all, we must remember that sun exposure produces many essential photoproducts beyond vitamin D.
Vitamin D blood levels, in the case of Parkinson’s and some other diseases, are simply surrogate measurements of sun exposure. We simply cannot substitute a vitamin D pill for sun exposure and expect to reap all the benefits of sunlight. The “holistic” sun will never be supplanted by a capsule. The sun stimulates the production of vitamin D, dopamine, nitric oxide, serotonin, endorphins, brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) and other photoproducts. And, all of these photoproducts play their roles in human health. For some diseases, vitamin D is vital for prevention. In others such as Parkinson’s, it is just along for the ride.
The takeaway regarding sun exposure and Parkinson’s.
To help prevent this disease, be sure to obtain plenty of non-burning sunlight. And In lieu of that, when there is no sunlight available, use a low-pressure sunbed (tanning bed) in a salon. Always remember not to burn. For more information, read my new book, Embrace the Sun, available at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Embrace-Sun-Marc-B-Sorenson/dp/069207600X
 Knekt P, Kilkkinen A, Rissanen H, Marniemi J, Sääksjärvi K, Heliövaara M. Serum vitamin D and the risk of Parkinson disease. Arch Neurol. 2010 Jul;67(7):808-11.
 Wang J, Yang D, Yu Y, Shao G. Wang Q. Vitamin D and Sunlight Exposure in Newly-Diagnosed Parkinson’s Disease. Nutrients 2016;8:142.
 Zhou Z, Zhou R, Zhang Z, Li K. The Association between Vitamin D Status, Vitamin D Supplementation, Sunlight Exposure, and Parkinson’s disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Med Sci Monit. 2019 Jan 23;25:666-674.