The risk of age-related cognitive decline is significantly increased by vitamin D deficiency, according to a new study conducted by researchers from the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, the University of Cambridge and the University of Michigan, and published in the Journal of Geriatric Psychology.
Researchers assessed the vitamin D status and cognitive function of 2,000 people over the age of 64, finding an inverse correlation between blood levels of vitamin D and performance on tests of attention, memory, and orientation in time and space.
This confirmed the results of prior studies, which had found statistically lower blood levels of vitamin D among dementia patients than among their healthier counterparts. That previous research had not been set up to determine, however, whether the vitamin D deficiency had predated the disease or not. The current study suggests that this may in fact be the case, as cognitive decline is a significant predictor of dementia risk.
“It would be interesting if a low level of vitamin D was found to be a risk factor for cognitive problems,” said Susanne Sorensen of the Alzheimer’s Society, “as it is cheap and easy to remedy.
Vitamin D is produced naturally by the body upon exposure to sunlight. It is known to play a critical role in calcium absorption and bone health, while recent research has suggested that it also contributes to healthy immune function and cancer prevention. At latitudes far from the equator, however, it may be hard for people to get enough vitamin D from sunlight alone.
“Many foods that contain vitamin D, such as oily fish, eggs and breakfast cereals, are also good sources of vitamin B12, which, as previous studies have shown, can help protect the brain,” she said.
“Diet is known to influence dementia risk. The best way of reducing your risk of developing dementia is to maintain a balanced diet with regular exercise and frequent social interactions.”
Sources for this story include: news.bbc.co.uk.