Dietary Supplements for Parkinson's Disease

Dietary supplements are products that contain a dietary ingredient, such as a vitamin, mineral, amino acid, or herb. Also called nutritional supplements, they are taken by mouth and are intended to add nutritional value to the diet. Many people use dietary supplements for general health and well-being. People with PD also look to supplements to improve their health.1,2

There are no dietary supplements that have been proven to slow the progression of PD. However, scientists are researching several supplements to understand the role they may play in PD. Before taking any supplements, discuss them with a doctor. They may interfere with PD drugs or cause serious side effects.1,2

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an antioxidant (a substance that helps clear toxins) that helps cells get energy from oxygen. A large clinical trial looking at people with PD taking CoQ10 compared to those taking a placebo showed no benefit of CoQ10. This caused the study to be ended. However, scientists are using the results of this trial to determine if other forms of CoQ10 could be effective or if taking CoQ10 at the early stages of the disease may be helpful.2,3

Creatine

Creatine is an amino acid that increases levels of phosphocreatine, an energy source for muscles and the brain. In some studies, creatine has shown to protect against nerve cell injury. Some studies have shown creatine may help slow the progression of PD among people in the early stages of the disease. Other studies have not found a benefit of taking creatine for people with advanced stages of PD.2-4

One long-term study conducted in multiple centers in the United States and Canada evaluated creatine compared with a placebo. Study participants were given either creatine or a placebo for at least 5 years. There was no evidence to support the use of creatine.2-4

Vitamin C and Vitamin E

Vitamin C and vitamin E are both antioxidants. One study that evaluated these vitamins found they helped delay the need for PD drugs. Taking vitamin E alone did not seem to have the same benefit. However, vitamin E supplements can increase the risk of bleeding, especially in those who take blood thinners. Vitamin E has also been studied for its potential to reduce the risk of developing PD. However, dietary intake of vitamin E did not show any reduction in the risk of developing PD.3,5

Glutathione

Glutathione is a compound that has several effects on nerve cell metabolism. It is also a powerful antioxidant. Studies have shown that glutathione is depleted in the substantia nigra (a part of the brain that is damaged by Parkinson’s) in people with PD. One study did not find that glutathione improves motor symptoms compared to the control group. Researchers are studying if glutathione may prevent the progression of PD.2,6

Curcumin

Curcumin is the spice in turmeric, which often used in Indian cuisine and medicine. Curcumin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties. It also seems to provide protection against nerve cell injury. In research studies, curcumin has shown it can prevent the clumping of the protein alpha-synuclein in lab samples. Clumps of alpha-synuclein, also called Lewy bodies, are one of the key signs of PD. Preventing Lewy bodies from forming could potentially reduce symptoms or slow the progression of the disease. However, this research is still in its early stages, and it is not clear if curcumin may have the same effect in people.7,8

Herbal remedies

Some people with PD take St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) to ease depression, which is a common non-motor symptom of PD. Since St. John’s Wort has been shown to have similar properties to antidepressants, it should not be taken along with antidepressants.2

Other people with PD use herbal remedies for insomnia, to calm anxiety, or improve overall well-being. There are no scientific studies that prove the effectiveness of herbal remedies for people with PD. Anyone using them should speak with their doctor to ensure they do not interfere with other medicines.2

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Written by: Emily Downward | Last reviewed: May 2021