Low Vitamin D linked to cognitive decline in the elderly

Vitamin D may be best recognized for its role in helping the body absorb calcium, which maintains bone strength and thus protects against osteoporosis and fracture.

But low Vitamin D levels have also been connected in recent research to higher cardiovascular risk (especially risk of stroke), higher risk of certain kinds of cancer (such as colorectal cancer), and even higher risk of coming down with a cold or the flu.

Now here’s still more news about Vitamin D’s impact on health: two new studies “add to the evidence that older people with low levels of Vitamin D may be more likely to suffer from cognitive impairment.”

One study looked at about 150 people aged 70 and older living on their own. All were given a standard 30-point test that is used to screen for cognitive impairment. Results showed that the lower the participants’ Vitamin D levels, the lower their score on the test.

The second study involved 752 women, aged 75 and older, of whom 129 had vitamin D levels that were below 10 nanograms per milliliter, indicating Vitamin D deficiency. (Vitamin D deficiency is generally quite common among older women.) Those with this low level of the vitamin were found to be about twice as likely to have cognitive impairment, as measured by a standard test of cognitive skills, as those with higher Vitamin D levels.

These studies do show an interesting correlation between low Vitamin D levels and cognitive impairment. But now researchers are planning specific studies to see whether supplementing with Vitamin D can improve the symptoms of people with Parkinson’s disease, or decrease the chances that healthy older people will develop cognitive impairment or dementia. We’ll certainly stay tuned!

The two studies were presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. We read about them first in an online article at the site WebMD: “Low Vitamin D Level Tied to Cognitive Decline Study Shows Elderly People With Higher Vitamin D Levels Performed Better on Mental Tests.”

See the NYBC entries on Vitamin D for further information: http://www.newyorkbuyersclub.org

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