Vitamin D Linked with Brain Health

Getting adequate vitamin D is not only beneficial for bone health in older adults, the sunshine vitamin plays a role in immune system function and offers anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neuroprotective properties.  New research also suggests that vitamin D deficiency may be associated with an increased risk for dementia and stroke. 

According to a recent SciTechDaily report, a new genetic study conducted at the University of South Australia shows a direct link between dementia and a lack of vitamin D.  Researchers found that low levels of vitamin D were associated with lower brain volumes and an increased risk for dementia and stroke.  In certain populations, the study suggests up to 17 percent of dementia cases could be prevented by increasing vitamin D levels to normal (50nmol/L).   Researchers used genetic analysis to demonstrate the correlation between vitamin D deficiency and dementia. 

The American Alzheimer’s Association reports that 6 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease – a specific form of dementia.  Although dementia is not a normal part of aging, it is most commonly seen in people over the age of 65.  With the aging of the baby boomer generation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention anticipates that by 2060, nearly 14 million Americans will have some type of dementia. 

People living in regions with less natural sunlight are more likely to develop vitamin D deficiencies.  Modifications to diet may help, but in some cases, supplementation may be needed to increase vitamin D levels to normal, according to the study authors.   In addition to spending time outdoors in natural sunlight, the body can absorb vitamin D through fortified milk and cereal, and by consuming fatty fish like salmon, mackerel or sardines.  

Your doctor can test your blood to check for vitamin D levels.  For people aged 1 to 70, the recommended daily amount is 600IU, for people over 70, 800IU of vitamin D is recommended. Always consult with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any new medication or supplement as there can be serious side effects from drug interactions or taking more than the recommended dose.