According to a new study published in the Journal of Gerontology last month, researchers at Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) and Duke University have associated low vitamin D levels with an increased risk of cognitive decline in the elderly.

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.

Last year I shared a study published in JAMA Neurology where researchers demonstrated a significant association between vitamin D insufficiency and cognitive decline specifically seen Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Research continues to show the significant role vitamin D plays in our overall health, however, the current research also demonstrates its significant role in maintaining healthy brain function.
This study including 1,202 participants greater than 60 years of age is the first large-scale study in Asia to study the association between vitamin D status and risk of cognitive decline and impairment in the elderly. Their baseline vitamin D levels were measured at the start of the study, and their cognitive abilities were assessed over a 2 year period.

As a result, individuals with lower vitamin D levels at the beginning of the study were about twice as likely to display significant cognitive decline over time. In addition, low vitamin D levels at baseline also increased the risk of future cognitive impairment.

This research reinforces that vitamin D protects against neuron damage and its effects on cognitive decline.

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 the reality is most require supplementation. The majority of us are deficient and there are several reasons for that. 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 and/or using sunscreen preventing optimal Vitamin D absorption.

By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, CNS

Source: David B. Matchar, Choy-Lye Chei, Zhao-Xue Yin, Victoria Koh, Bibhas Chakraborty, Xiao-Ming Shi, Yi Zeng. Vitamin D Levels and the Risk of Cognitive Decline in Chinese Elderly People: the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 2016; glw128 DOI:10.1093/gerona/glw128

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