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With many Americans concerned about vitamin D deficiency, a new study finds a causal link between vitamin D deficiency and dementia, according to an article published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition this April.
“Vitamin D is a hormone precursor increasingly [recognized] for widespread effects, including on brain health, but until now it has been very difficult to examine what would happen if we could prevent vitamin D deficiency,” said senior author Elina Hyppönen, senior research fellow and director of the University of South Australia’s Center for of Australia for Precision Health.
“Our study is the first to examine the effect of very low levels of vitamin D on the risks of dementia and stroke, using robust genetic analyzes in a large population.”
The genetic study, which was supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, analyzed data from 294,514 UK Biobank participants to investigate the association between 25-hydroxyvitamin D and neuroimaging features with risk. of dementia and stroke.
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Hyppönen told Fox News that some people will always have a slightly lower vitamin D status compared to other people with similar circumstances based simply on their genes.
So the study matched participants with higher or lower levels of vitamin D based on their genes to examine the risk of developing dementia based on their vitamin D status.
“If there is a true effect of vitamin D on dementia risk, then this type of genetic analysis should also provide evidence for this, and this is exactly what we saw.”
Vitamin D is a nutrient that we get from certain foods and a hormone that our bodies produce. It helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus, which strengthens bones, according to the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.
“Vitamin D production in the skin is the main natural source of vitamin D, but many people have insufficient levels because they live in places where sunlight is limited in winter, or because they have limited sun exposure due to being indoors. most of the time.” according to the Harvard website.
But it’s hard to get enough vitamin D from the foods we eat, so the best way to ensure adequate levels is to take a supplement, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
The article noted that it is the first study of its kind to show a direct link between dementia and a lack of vitamin D.
The gold standard for proving causality is a randomized clinical trial, where participants are randomly divided into separate groups to compare treatment outcomes, according to the National Cancer Institute.
“We used a genetic design because it would not be ethically acceptable to include people with clinical vitamin D deficiency in a randomized clinical trial where they would be left without the treatment they need,” Hyppönen told Fox News.
The study found that low levels of vitamin D were associated with lower brain volumes and a higher risk of stroke.
They noted that up to 17% of dementia cases could be prevented in some populations by increasing everyone to “normal” levels of vitamin D, which they described as 50 nmol/L, the cutoff point of vitamin D insufficiency according to the Guidance Institute of Medicine.
“In addition, we were also able to see how this kind of genetic advantage, where people would always have a slightly higher vitamin D status than others in a similar situation, is associated with dementia risk when concentrations are very low,” he explained. Hyppönen to Fox News.
“The results of these analyzes were particularly exciting, as we were able to show that the effect vitamin D has on dementia risk is much stronger and potentially restricted to those whose concentrations are very low, suggesting that efforts to raising concentrations is only going to help if you’re deficient in vitamin D.”
Dementia is a general term for impaired cognitive function that makes it difficult to perform daily activities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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The CDC estimates that approximately 5 million adults over the age of 65 are living with dementia in the United States as of 2014, but there are more than 55 million people living with dementia worldwide, according to the news release.
The study points out several limitations, including residual confounding variables that were not taken into account, although it did take into account several variables that could influence the result.
The study also noted technical statistical limitations regarding how vitamin D was measured, and the findings may not generalize to a diverse population because the analyzes used to test for causality were restricted to participants of white British descent.
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“If we are able to change this reality by making sure that none of us have a serious vitamin D deficiency, it would also have more benefits and we could change the health and well-being of thousands,” said Hyppönen.
“Most of us are probably fine, but for anyone who, for whatever reason, doesn’t get enough vitamin D from the sun, dietary modifications may not be enough and supplementation may be needed.”