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Adapted from Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN
Designs For Health

According to a new study published in the Journal of Gerontology, researchers at Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) and Duke University have associated low vitamin D levels with an increased risk of cognitive decline in the elderly.

The results reinforce the importance of identifying vitamin D insufficiency among the elderly.

Low vitamin D levels were associated with significantly faster rates of decline in memory and executive function performance.

Last year JAMA Neurology published a study where researchers demonstrated a significant association between vitamin D insufficiency and cognitive decline specifically seen with Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Research continues to show the significant role vitamin D plays in our overall health; however, the current research also demonstrates its significant role in maintaining healthy brain function.

This study, which included 1,202 participants who were 60 years old or older, is the first large-scale study in Asia to examine the association between vitamin D status and risk of cognitive decline and impairment in the elderly. Their baseline vitamin D levels were measured at the start of the study, and their cognitive abilities were assessed over a two year period.

As a result, individuals with lower vitamin D levels at the beginning of the study were about twice as likely to display significant cognitive decline over time. In addition, low vitamin D levels at baseline also increased the risk of future cognitive impairment. This research reinforces that vitamin D protects against neuron damage and its effects on cognitive decline.

Vitamin D deficiency is a common problem that has many health consequences, yet it can easily be addressed. Sun exposure is the ideal source of vitamin D, but the reality is most individuals have low vitamin D levels and require supplementation. Many people avoid the sun due to the dangers of overexposure, so they’ll cover up potentially exposed skin with either clothing or sunblock. In addition, many of life’s obligations require us to spend countless hours inside under fluorescent lights and away from natural light. Also, both latitude and time of year will influence the amount of vitamin D that can be obtained from the sun, and in some locations these limitations may be hindrances throughout most of the year.

Source: David B. Matchar, Choy-Lye Chei, Zhao-Xue Yin, Victoria Koh, Bibhas Chakraborty, Xiao-Ming Shi, Yi Zeng. Vitamin D Levels and the Risk of Cognitive Decline in Chinese Elderly People: the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 2016; glw128 DOI:10.1093/gerona/glw128

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