Scientists from Tufts University and elsewhere found that higher vitamin D levels in the brain are linked to better cognitive function in older people.
Vitamin D is both a nutrient we eat and a hormone our bodies make. It is a fat-soluble vitamin that has long been known to help the body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus; both are critical for building bone.
Also, studies show that vitamin D can reduce cancer cell growth, help control infections and reduce inflammation.
Many of the body’s organs and tissues have receptors for vitamin D, which suggest important roles beyond bone health, and scientists are actively investigating other possible functions.
Cognitive decline can range from mild cognitive impairment to dementia, a form of decline in abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life.
Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning — thinking, remembering, and reasoning — to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities.
Some people with dementia cannot control their emotions, and their personalities may change.
Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person’s functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for basic activities of daily living, such as feeding oneself.
Previous research has found that vitamin D could protect against cognitive decline and dementia using circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D).
But little is known about vitamin D in the human brain and its association with dementia or neuropathology.
In the current study, researchers used data from 290 decedents of the Rush Memory and Aging Project that had vitamin D levels measured in four brain regions.
Associations with cognitive and neuropathological outcomes were examined.
The team found the main form of vitamin D in all brain regions measured was 25(OH)D3.
Higher brain 25(OH)D3 levels were linked to a 25% to 33% lower risk of dementia or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) at the last visit before death.
However, brain 25(OH)D levels were not linked to any post-mortem neuropathology outcomes.
Based on the findings, the researchers conclude that higher brain 25(OH)D3 levels are associated with better cognitive function prior to death.
Future research needs to clarify the specific mechanisms underlying this potentially protective effect.
The research was published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia and conducted by M Kyla Shea et al.
If you care about dementia, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and Vitamin B supplements could help reduce dementia risk.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies that a high-fiber diet could help lower the dementia risk, and these antioxidants could help reduce dementia risk.
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