Sep 15, 2015

How Low Vitamin D Levels Increases the Risk Of Dementia

We have written many times here in the Alzheimer's Reading Room about how getting too little vitamin D can contribute to cognitive decline, Alzheimer's and dementia.

How Low Vitamin D Inceases the Risk Of Dementia

By Alzheimer's Reading Room

Vitamin D insufficiency is associated with significantly faster declines in both episodic memory and executive function performance.

Vitamin D is critical to keep the body healthy. While most are aware of the importance of Vitamin D for healthy bones, few understand the importance for of Vitamin D for the brain.

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Vitamin D insufficiency among the elderly is associated with accelerated cognitive decline in brain domains, and is associated with memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia.
  • The effect is “substantial,” with individuals with low vitamin D declining at a rate three times faster than those with adequate vitamin D levels.
These new research findings amplify the importance of identifying vitamin D insufficiency among the elderly.

The research is published online in JAMA Neurology.
“Independent of race or ethnicity, baseline cognitive abilities and a host of other risk factors, vitamin D insufficiency was associated with significantly faster declines in both episodic memory and executive function performance.”  - Joshua Miller,  professor and chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers University.
“This work, and that of others, suggests that there is enough evidence to recommend that people in their 60s and older discuss taking a daily vitamin D supplement with their physicians.”
  • The participants’ serum vitamin D status was measured at the beginning of the study. Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency were prevalent among all of the study participants. 
  • Overall, 26 percent were deficient and 35 percent were insufficient. Among Caucasians, 54 percent had low vitamin D, compared with 70 percent of African-Americans and Hispanics.
Over five years of follow-up, vitamin D deficient individuals experienced cognitive declines that were two-to-three times faster than those with adequate serum vitamin D levels.

In other words, it took only two years for the deficient individuals to decline as much as their counterparts with adequate vitamin D declined during the five-year follow-up period.
“We expected to see declines in individuals with low vitamin D status,” said Charles DeCarli, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center. “What was unexpected was how profoundly and rapidly [low vitamin D] impacts cognition.”
Exposing the skin to sunlight is the major source of vitamin D.

Diet is the other major source of vitamin D. Dietary vitamin D is obtained particularly through dairy consumption.

“This is a vitamin deficiency that could easily be treated and that has other health consequences. We need to start talking about it. And we need to start talking about it, particularly for people of color, for whom vitamin D deficiency appears to present an even greater risk,” he said.

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The StudyVitamin D Status and Rates of Cognitive Decline in a Multiethnic Cohort of Older Adults