Link Between Alzheimer's, Dementia and Vitamin D Levels

Posted by | August 13, 2014 | Blog | No Comments

A recent study shows findings that a deficiency in Vitamin D may double the chance of Alzheimer’s disease in older adults. The real factor to consider when reading this is that this is the largest study of its kind!

“We expected to find an association between low Vitamin D levels and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but the results were surprising — we actually found that the association was twice as strong as we anticipated,” stated David Llewellyn of the University of Exeter Medical School in a news release, who was the leader of the study.

The information was collected through several years’ worth of data on 1,658 Americans ages 65 and older. The findings concluded that adults who were slightly deficient in vitamin D had a 53% increased risk of developing dementia. Surprisingly, the risk skyrockets to 125% for those who had a severe deficiency. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. In adults with a moderate vitamin D deficient an increased risk of 69% of development was shown, while those severely deficient had an increased risk of 122%.

Vitamin D levels and Dementia

“Clinical trials are now needed to establish whether eating foods such as oily fish or taking vitamin D supplements can delay or even prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia,” Llewellyn said. “We need to be cautious at this early stage, and our latest results do not demonstrate that low vitamin D levels cause dementia. That said, our findings are very encouraging, and even if a small number of people could benefit, this would have enormous public health implications given the devastating and costly nature of dementia.”

More than five million Americans are presently living with Alzheimer’s disease, and it is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States at the moment. This is according to Alzheimer’s Association. One out of every three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. “We think this study is important,” Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach with the Alzheimer’s Association (a major funder of Llewellyn’s research). “It’s a relatively large study, and it looks like it does show a pretty substantial link.… It just doesn’t show us why there is a link.” One hypothesis is that the brain — including the hippocampus, which is one of the first areas to break down with Alzheimer’s — is full of vitamin D receptors.

More and more research has been done on the correlation of Alzheimer’s and vitamin D. In just the past 12 months studies have been conducted to backup these findings. In Denmark study shows a link between Alzheimer’s disease prevalence and low levels of vitamin D. Studies done in Australia and France discovered a slight link between vitamin D supplementation and improving memory.

“People tend to not believe vitamin D news, because it seems too good to be true,” John Cannell, MD, executive director of Vitamin D Council. “But vitamin D has a profound mechanism of action, as it’s really a steroid hormone that turns genes on and off, and no other vitamin works that way. There are at least 1,000 different genes directly influenced by vitamin D.”

Cannell called the findings in question “pretty exciting,” due to in large part its scope and configuration. “It’s important because it’s the first cohort study of a large population — the next step is a randomized controlled trial, but this is as close as you can get without that,” he said.

Numerous other studies have shown that vitamin D has also been connected with preventing asthma, diabetes, and cancer. The main sources of which are sunshine and vitamin supplements. Other, minor sources, includes eggs and fish, such as salmon and sardines. Remember, though, that professionals still recommend a certain level of caution with regards to sun exposure.

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