Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Dementia

Photo credit: Ma Guihua

A new study has found that vitamin D deficiency is associated with a substantially increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in older people.


An international team, led by Dr David Llewellyn at the University of Exeter Medical School, had followed elderly Americans for six years and discovered that participants who were severely Vitamin D deficient were more than twice as likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.


More: Vitamin D Protects Brain Health


“The results were surprising,“ said Dr Llewellyn.


Although clinical trials are needed to establish whether eating foods such as oily fish or taking vitamin D supplements can delay or even prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, the findings are indeed very encouraging.


Read: Vitamin D May Reduce Diabetes Risk


Dementia has turned into a major challenge for the modern era, with 44 million cases worldwide. The figure could even triple by 2050 as a result of rapid population ageing. Meanwhile, about a billion people in the world are believe to have low vitamin D levels.


Vitamin D comes from three main sources – exposure of skin to sunlight, foods such as oily fish, and supplements. Older people’s skin can be less efficient at converting sunlight into Vitamin D, making them more likely to be deficient and reliant on other sources. In many countries the amount of UVB radiation in winter is too low to allow vitamin D production.


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“Even if a small number of people could benefit, this would have enormous public health implications given the devastating and costly nature of dementia,” he added.


The research is the first large study to investigate the relationship between vitamin D and dementia risk. It confirms that vitamin D deficiency translates into a substantial increase in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.


Evidence from the study also show that vitamin D levels above 50 nmol/L are most strongly associated with good brain health.


You may also want to read: 16 Supplements to Help Prevent Alzheimer’s


“Shedding light on risk factors for dementia is one of the most important tasks facing today’s health researchers,” said Dr Doug Brown, director of research and development at Alzheimer’s Society.


Earlier studies suggested that a lack of vitamin D is linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, this study found that people with very low vitamin D levels were more than twice as likely to develop any kind of dementia.


Learn: Dr. Perlmutter’s Grain Brain Nutrition Tips




“Vitamin D and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer disease,” Thomas J. Littlejohns, William E. Henley, Iain A. Lang, Cedric Annweiler, Olivier Beauchet, Paulo H.M. Chaves, Linda Fried, Bryan R. Kestenbaum, Lewis H. Kuller, Kenneth M. Langa, Oscar L. Lopez, Katarina Kos, Maya Soni, David J. Llewellyn, Neurology online August 6 2014


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