Study: Vitamin D is your brain’s keeper

A recent longitudinal study suggests that seniors with vitamin D deficiency may experience cognitive decline and impairment faster than those with sufficient levels of vitamin D.

“We were not particularly surprised by our findings because there is a recent and growing literature on the associations between vitamin D status and risk of Alzheimer’s disease/dementia, cognitive decline, and brain atrophy,” Dr. Joshua W. Miller from Rutgers University told Reuters Health.

The study, conducted by a team of researchers from Davis’ Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the University of California, analyzed changes in memory and thinking ability in 318 adults over the span of five years.

Participants were an average age of 76 years who were either cognitively normal, had mild cognitive impairment, or dementia. One hundred and fifty-eight Caucasians, 113 African Americans, and 96 Hispanics participated.

Researchers collected data on the individuals’ blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OHD), which is the form generated when the body converts vitamin D made in response to sunlight and consumed in vitamin D-rich foods.

Currently, guidelines advise that adequate levels are in the range of 20 nanograms per milliliter of serum to 50 ng/mL.

The analysis reveals that older adults with low levels of vitamin D experienced cognitive decline at rates two to three times faster than those with adequate serum vitamin D levels. It took only two years for the deficient individuals to decline as much as their counterparts with sufficient levels did over the course of five years.

“We expected to see declines in individuals with low vitamin D status,” says Charles DeCarli, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center, in a statement reported by University Herald. “What was unexpected was how profoundly and rapidly [low vitamin D] impacts cognition.”

Researchers also found that African-Americans and Latinos had a higher risk of accelerated cognitive decline because they have higher concentrations of melanin. This makes their skin darker, but also inhibits the ability to synthesize vitamin D.

The recent study found that vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency were prevalent among all participants. Overall, 26 percent of participants were deficient and 35 percent were insufficient.

A study published in Nutrition Journal found that 42 percent of U.S. adults have a deficiency in the vitamin.

Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to play a role in many almost every major disease, including osteoporosis, heart disease, high blood pressure, gout, autoimmune diseases, Parkinson’s Disease, and fibromyalgia.

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