Vitamin D Deficiency and Alzheimer’s

Research indicates that a decline in cognitive function and episodic memory loss (both associated with Alzheimer’s disease) have been linked with significantly low levels of vitamin D; recently published in JAMA Neurology journal.

Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency

A lack of vitamin D is possibly due to one’s dietary habits, for example, vitamin D is found predominantly in animal-based products – this may be problematic for vegans in acquiring sufficient vitamin D from alternative sources. Poor sunlight exposure affects vitamin D levels, particularly in areas of high latitude, as well as in people that avoid the sun for religious or medical issues (for example, people with high risk of skin cancer). In addition, people with darker skin tones have more melanin than those with fair skin and thus require longer periods in the sunlight for their skin to synthesize (produce) vitamin D – melanin inhibits vitamin D synthesis.

Neurodegenerative Disease and Vitamin D

Alzheimer’s disease is the leading type of dementia; it leads to brain shrinkage (atrophy, which progressively worsens over time and results in the loss of memory, cognitive ability and more. Studies from Rutgers University in New Jersey, US, indicate the importance of sufficient levels of vitamin D:

Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent in older adults - adults with low levels of vitamin D show a decline in cognitive ability and reduced performance (up to 3 times more) compared with those with sufficient vitamin D levels. This research concludes a study of over 300 people of mixed ethnicities, above the age of 76 with cognitive abilities ranging from normal to those with dementia, and over a period of 5 years.

In addition, studying various ethnicities of people indicated that African-American and Hispanic participants had lower levels of vitamin D compared to Caucasian groups. The African-American and Hispanic participants also had a higher risk of a quicker cognitive decline because of the higher levels of melanin in their skin – which as mentioned, reduces the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D. This study invites further research to determine whether vitamin D replacement therapy (for dark-tone skin) can help prevent dementia.

Vitamin D deficiency is also linked with osteoporosis, heart disease and asthma in children. Vitamin D also may serve a protective role against strokes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, to name a few.

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?

A specific blood test (25-hydroxy) indicates the level of vitamin D in the blood, the doctor can thus conclude whether the patient is getting sufficient vitamin D or lacking and intervene if necessary by prescribing vitamin D supplements (or alternative measures) depending on the individual patient’s medical history.

Herzliya Medical Center is renowned for its neurology department, extensively screening, diagnosing and treating a multitude of diseases of the central and peripheral nervous system, using the latest and innovative treatment approaches, significantly improve a patient’s prognosis. Specialists at HMC aim to prevent Alzheimer’s disease progression by optimizing and maintaining Alzheimer’s disease treatment in order for patients’ to continue living as independently as possible

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