Get Your D On
Just when we thought we’d heard the latest news on the nutritional relevance of vitamin D, an interesting study was revealed by the University of Exeter. This robust international investigation associated vitamin D deficiency with a substantial increase in the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in older people. The team found that study participants who were severely vitamin D deficient were more than twice as likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the study, dementia is one of the greatest challenges of our time, with 44 million cases worldwide — a number expected to triple by 2050 as a result of rapid population aging. A billion people worldwide are thought to have low vitamin D levels and many older adults may experience poorer health as a result.
Can Vitamin D Really Help with Brain Health?
The study found evidence that there is a threshold level of Vitamin D circulating in the bloodstream below which the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease increases. The team had previously hypothesized that this might lie in the region of 25-50 nmol/L, and their new findings confirm that vitamin D levels above 50 nmol/L are most strongly associated with good brain health.
There isn’t enough data yet to suggest that vitamin D can actually prevent Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. But maintaining healthy vitamin D levels is associated with the prevention of heart disease, osteoporosis, and some cancers. So it’s a gamble I’m certainly willing to take.
Vitamin D comes from three main sources — exposure of skin to sunlight, foods such as oily fish, and supplements. In California, we have the opportunity for sun exposure practically year round. While using sunblock for prolonged sun exposure is advised, fifteen minutes of sun a day without sunblock is enough for most people to build healthy vitamin D reserves.
Yet another reason to take a walk in the park and eat wild caught salmon twice a week!