Vitamin D has long been touted as the “sunshine vitamin” that is essential for bone health. But now scientists have found that it may also help protect the aging brain against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Research now supports that vitamin D is critical to the nervous system and in turn a deficiency may contribute to age-related dips in cognitive behavior. Additionally, experts believe that the vitamin protects against age-related inflammatory changes in the hippocampal markers of aging. What’s more, vitamin D also aids with the removal of the beta-amyloid plaques linked with Alzheimer’s disease.
A recent study, published online in the journal Neurology, reported an inverse relationship between the vitamin D and dementia. During a six-year study period, the researchers found that older people deficient in this vitamin were significantly more likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s. Whether low vitamin D is the culprit of these disorders is still unknown.
Study author Dr. David J. Llewellyn was recently interviewed in the Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter.
“We expected to find an association between low vitamin D and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” he said. “But the results were surprising, we actually found the association was twice as strong as anticipated.”
Researchers measured the blood levels of vitamin D in 1,658 men and women, age 65 or older. These participants did not have dementia at the beginning of the study. However, over a five-year follow-up period, 171 developed dementia, including 102 cases of Alzheimer’s disease.
They deduced that compared with those who had vitamin D levels of 50 or more nanomoles per liter; those with levels of 25 to 50 had a 53 percent higher risk for dementia and a 69 percent higher risk for Alzheimer’s. Those with readings of 25 or less were more than twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.
While the study offered important findings, the authors warned that it wasn’t designed to prove cause and effect.
Co-author Dr. Iain A. Lang discussed the study results in the New York Times.
“These are exciting and suggestive results, but they’re only observational,” he stated. “We can’t say anything about whether people should be supplementing, because that’s beyond the scope of what we looked at.”
How Much is Enough?
Experts differ on how much vitamin D is enough for good health. The Institute of Medicine advises 600 IU of vitamin D daily for people under 70, and 800 IU for those over 70. IU stands for “International Units” and measures the body’s intake; as opposed to blood levels of vitamin D. Getting enough vitamin D from food can be tricky as only a few foods (fatty fish, egg yolks, fortified milk, canned tuna) contain significant amounts.
If you suspect you aren’t getting enough of this vitamin or you don’t get much time out in the sun, it may be worth considering a supplement. Discuss your concerns with a trusted healthcare professional to determine the best regime to adopt.
In the coming months, the Juvenon Health Journal will continue to feature research that will help you stay informed and healthy. By offering effective, all-natural supplements and health news you can use, Juvenon provides an essential toolkit to for a healthy, long life.