Vitamin D May Help Prevent Dementia 

Shandra Martinez

| 3 min read

Home caregiver helping a senior woman standing in the bedroom
Dementia is a major cause of disability as people age and something that is greatly feared. A recent study that has received a lot of attention, has shown that taking vitamin D supplements may help prevent or slow down the development of dementia.

The benefits of vitamin D

Vitamin D has long been known as a growth factor for creating bones and keeping them strong. It is typically linked with the bone-building properties of calcium, since the body needs vitamin D to help it absorb calcium in foods and from supplements. It has other benefits as well according to information shared by the Mayo Clinic:
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Supports immune health
  • Supports muscle function
  • Helps prevent osteoporosis
Unlike other vitamins which can only be obtained through diet or supplementation, vitamin D is normally created in the body by exposure to sunlight. This is wonderful news in sunny parts of the world but in Michigan where we have fall, winter and cloud cover, most people have decreased vitamin D levels in the colder months.

Sources of vitamin D

Diet can help but most foods with the exception of oily fish such as salmon, sardines, anchovies, etc. and egg yolks have very little or no vitamin D. To get around this problem, several common foods have vitamin D added to them. Vitamin D-fortified milk is the best example of this although there are others including some breads and cereals. Orange juice may or may not be fortified with vitamin D so it is very important to read the label. This is an especially important point if someone is lactose intolerant and avoids milk. If diet and sun exposure are insufficient, then supplements can be obtained either through a prescription from your physician or by over-the-counter supplements.

Dementia prevention

The link between vitamin D and a lower risk for developing dementia is being discussed after the results of a recent study conducted in the United States, and a similar study slated to begin in Canada, according to researchers at the University of Calgary. The U.S. study was based on 12,000 people ages 70 or older. None of the participants reported having dementia symptoms when they signed up through the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center. About 37% of those in the study were asked to take a vitamin D supplement. The study took place over 10 years. Those who took vitamin D reportedly developed dementia symptoms at a 40% lower rate than those who did not take the supplements.
The U.S. study also showed:
  • The preventative effects of vitamin D seemed greater for women than for men.
  • The effects seemed greater for those with normal cognitive function than those with slightly impaired cognitive function.
  • There is an apparent benefit to starting vitamin D use earlier in life as a protective measure.

Getting your daily vitamin D

There are several different ways to boost vitamin D levels. Sunshine and diet, especially with fortified foods are the most natural way to boost vitamin D levels but for those with persistently low levels, a daily vitamin D supplement may be the easiest solution. Before starting any new supplement, though, always check with your healthcare provider who can measure vitamin D levels through a simple blood test.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin D by age group, according to the federal government:
  • 14 to 18 years old: 15mcg (600 IU)
  • 19 to 70 years old: 15mcg (600 IU)
  • Older than 70 years old: 20 mcg (800 IU)
Photo credit: Getty Images

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