Dementia and Vitamin D Deficiency: Is There a Link?

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In what should be considered the first large scale study of its kind, a team of scientists discovered a clear link between vitamin D blood levels and the risk of dementia. Those who do not get sufficient levels of vitamin D can more than double their risk of dementia, especially as they grow older.

Dementia is a term loosely used to describe persons who have problems with various brain disorders that affect their thinking, memory, and language abilities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most well-known and common disorder under the umbrella term of dementia. This disease is the 6th leading cause of death in America and is thought to affect about 5 million people over the age of 65. This means that about 1 in 10 people will develop Alzheimer’s.

Vitamin D is a vital nutrient for the body’s functioning of the immune system, the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, as well as the growth and repair of bones.

This study, published in Neurology, states that deficiencies in vitamin D are linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, there are very high rates of vitamin D deficiencies in our elderly population, and they are the ones most at risk for the development of dementia.

According to the CDC, about 1/3 of the population of the United States do not get sufficient amounts of this important vitamin, and about 8 percent of the population have extremely low levels of vitamin D. This important vitamin is obtained from foods such as cheese, fatty cold water fish, milk, and eggs, along with sun exposure.

In this study, scientists tested 1,658 people over the age of 65 who were dementia free. The level of vitamin D in their blood stream was tested, and then a follow up test occurred after about 5.6 years.

In the follow up period, 171 of the subjects developed dementia in some form with 102 subjects developing Alzheimer’s. Subjects who had low levels of vitamin D were 53 percent more likely to have dementia and the subjects who had severe deficiencies were 125 percent more likely to have dementia or Alzheimer’s, compared to subjects who had normal levels of vitamin D.

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