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Tuesday, 03 November 2015 00:00

Solar-charge your memory with Vitamin D

We have known for years that Vitamin D is important for healthy bone metabolism and calcium absorption.  Recently, scientists have turned their attention to the role it plays in healthy brain function, in particular cognition in ageing.

Some studies point to the fact that vitamin D or specifically the lack thereof, may result in an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.  The studies noted a marked increase in Alzheimer’s cases in people with lower levels of the vitamin.  However, these tests did not include any other potentially mitigating factors that may have led to the increase.  It is not unusual for the elderly to be deficient in Vitamin D. Their diets often contain little to no sources at all as it is present in only a handful of different foods such as oily fish, mackerel, salmon and cod liver oil, and mushrooms. In addition, as one ages the skins ability to synthesize Vitamin D from sunlight decreases.

So is there a definite link to Alzheimer’s and Vitamin D deficiency?

While there certainly seems to be a link it may be too soon to tell how strong that link is or how easily preventable the disease is in people with high levels of Vitamin D.  People aged over 60 are already prone to cognitive decline, which is also prevalent in the same age category of people with low levels of Vitamin D.  Scientists are however still unclear about the cause of a relationship between the vitamin and the disease.

A study was done on 382 people between the ages of 60 and 90 over a period of eight years, by Rutgers University’s Professor Joshua Miller and his colleagues.  The group discovered that a vitamin D deficiency is common in people with Alzheimer’s.  While not everyone who had a deficiency had Alzheimer’s, the collective number of those with low levels of the vitamin was alarmingly high.

Although we can get an acceptable level of Vitamin D through casual sun exposure, many people are afraid to expose themselves to too much sun, which is known to increase skin cancer risks.  The elderly must ensure that vitamin D is included in their vitamin supplements, as the deficiency is only now being linked to Alzheimer’s, but has in the past already been linked to some cancers and depression.   

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