Reduced vitamin D levels linked to cognitive decline

Reprinted with permission of Life Extension

A study conducted by an international team of researchers, published in the July 12, 2010 issue of the American Medical Association journal Archives of Internal Medicine, found a greater risk of cognitive decline in older individuals with vitamin D insufficiency compared to those with sufficient levels.

Researchers from the University of Exeter, the UK Medical Research Council Biostatistics Unit, the University of Michigan, Perugia University Hospital and Medical School in Italy, and the US National Institute on Aging analyzed data from more than 850 men and women who participated in the InCHIANTI study from 1998 to 2006. Cognitive function assessments, including measures of cognitive performance, mental flexibility and mental speed, were conducted at the beginning of the study, and at three and six years.

The team found that subjects who were severely deficient in vitamin D upon enrollment were 60 percent more likely to experience significant cognitive decline as well as 31 percent likelier to develop reductions in mental flexibility compared to those with sufficient levels. “This is the first study to identify a clear link between low vitamin D levels and cognitive decline,” announced lead researcher Dr David J. Llewellyn of Peninsula Medical School, University of Exeter. “Previous research has been cross-sectional but we have now been able to demonstrate a connection between having low levels of vitamin D and going on to develop cognitive problems. It is estimated that 1 billion people worldwide have insufficient levels of vitamin D, so this is cause for real concern. Few foods contain vitamin D, synthesis from sunlight is not possible for much of the year at northern latitudes, and skin becomes less efficient at producing vitamin D with age.”

“Cognitive decline and dementia are also very common in older adults, though the underlying causes are still largely unknown and current options for prevention and treatment are limited,” he noted. “Vitamin D deficiency is therefore a highly promising therapeutic target for the prevention of dementia, particularly as supplements are inexpensive and safe and have already been shown to reduce the risk of falls, fractures and death. Given the coming dementia epidemic funding should now be made available to extend our research and conduct intervention trials as a matter of urgency.”

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