The Vitamin Deficiency That May Double Cognitive Decline Risk

Those in the study with lower vitamin levels at the start were at double the risk of significant cognitive decline.

Those in the study with lower vitamin levels at the start were at double the risk of significant cognitive decline.

Low vitamin D levels increase the risk of cognitive decline and impairment among the elderly, research suggests.

Those in the study with lower vitamin D levels at the start were at double the risk of significant cognitive decline.

Older people with low vitamin D levels were also at two to three times the risk of going on to develop cognitive impairment later on.

Vitamin D is primarily produced in the body by the action of sunlight on the skin.

Vitamin D is important in maintaining healthy bones and muscles, as well as brain function.

It may be that vitamin D protects against neuron damage and loss.

Other studies have also linked low vitamin D levels to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative problems, such as dementia.

The conclusions come from a study of over 1,000 people in China over the age of 60.

Their vitamin D levels and cognitive abilities were assessed over two years.

The study’s authors write:

“In conclusion, our longitudinal study indicates that low 25(OH)D3 [vitamin D] levels are associated with subsequent cognitive decline and cognitive impairment.

Despite the lack of conclusive results from intervention studies, the weight of this and other epidemiological studies reinforce the importance of more intensive investigation on the effects of vitamin D supplements on cognitive decline.”

The study found the same link between low vitamin D levels and cognitive impairment regardless of age and gender.

Professor David Matchar, the study’s first author, said:

“Although this study was conducted on subjects from China, the results are applicable to regions in Asia where a large proportion of the elderly are ethnically Chinese, like Singapore.”

Getting enough vitamin D

During the darker months, taking 10 mcg of a vitamin D supplement is often recommended.

Another option is to ensure that your diet has enough vitamin D in it.

Foods that contain relatively high amounts of vitamin D include sardines, salmon, mackerel and herring.

Other foods high in vitamin D include egg yolks, liver, mushrooms and red meat.

Cereals and spreads are also typically fortified with vitamin D.

The study was published in The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences (Matchar et al., 2022).


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Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.