Vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to all sorts of issues from cardiovascular disease to bone density issues and cancer. But recent research has found a link between a lack of vitamin D and an increased risk of dementia in older adults.
Dementia causes memory, judgment, and reasoning issues in older adults. It’s not a normal part of aging though increasing numbers of Americans are plagued with it. One common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease which 5 million Americans currently have and that number is on the rise.
A new study published in the journal Neurology followed data from 1,658 adults at an average age of 74 years old. They had no history of dementia or stroke at the time the study began. After about 5 1/2 years, 171 participants were diagnosed with dementia including, 102 who had Alzheimer’s disease.
Based on blood samples taken at the beginning of the study, those found to be deficient in vitamin D were twice as likely to have dementia than those with normal levels and those with severe deficiencies tripled their risk. The study found a link but it did not find that a vitamin D deficiency caused dementia.
You’re at an increased risk of a vitamin D deficiency if your exposure to sunlight is limited and if you have dark skin because the pigment melanin reduces the skin’s ability to absorb vitamin D after being in the sun. If your digestive tract cannot adequately absorb vitamin D into your system you’re also at risk. This includes those with celiac and Crohn’s disease.
Just 15 minutes a day of summer sun without sunscreen can provide you with enough vitamin D. But in the winter you may need to look elsewhere depending on where you call home. You can also get vitamin D from food sources. Good sources include dairy products and fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and cod liver oil. If you think you may be deficient, get your levels checked to find out.
Image: Martina Rathgens