vitamin D and dementiaIn a new study published earlier this month in JAMA Neurology, researchers demonstrated a significant association between vitamin D insufficiency and cognitive decline specifically seen Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

The results reinforce the importance of identifying vitamin D insufficiency among the elderly.

Low vitamin D levels were associated with significantly faster rates of decline in memory and executive function performance.

There is enough evidence to recommend that health care providers should discuss taking a daily vitamin D supplement with their elderly patients.

This study was included approximately 400 men and women participating in research at the Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Sacramento, Calif. The participants had a mean age of 76 and were either cognitively normal, had mild cognitive impairment, or dementia.

The participants’ serum vitamin D status was measured at the start of the study. Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency were prevalent among all of the study participants. Twenty-six percent were deficient and thirty-five percent were insufficient.

At the 5 year follow-up, vitamin D deficient participants experienced cognitive at rates 2-3 times faster than those with sufficient vitamin D levels.

The researchers expected to see cognitive decline in individuals with low vitamin D status, however, they did not expect how profoundly vitamin D impacts cognition.

Vitamin D deficiency is a common problem that could easily addressed and that has many other health consequences. Sun exposure is the ideal source of vitamin D, but most of us need to obtain vitamin D from other sources. The majority of us are deficient and there are several reasons for that. Racial and some ethnic minorities are at greater risk of low vitamin D because the higher concentration of melanin that makes their skin darker also inhibits vitamin D synthesis. Many people avoid the sun due to the dangers of overexposure. In addition, most of us spend so much time inside under fluorescent lights and away from natural light. Also, depending on what latitude you are at and the time of year, you may not be able to get adequate vitamin D from the sun. In in some locations this may be most of the year. For those people that spend a lot of time in the sun, most have the majority of their bodies covered preventing optimal Vitamin D absorption.

By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN

Source: Charles DeCarli, MD et al. Vitamin D Status and Rates of Cognitive Decline in a Multiethnic Cohort of Older Adults. JAMA Neurology, September 2015 DOI: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2015.2115

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