Vitamin D is not only good for your bones but it may also shield you from cognitive decline later in life, a new study suggests.
A team of researchers from University of California and Rutgers University learned that people in their 60s and older who lacked vitamin D were more prone to develop a quicker decline in cognitive function than their healthy peers.
Dr. Joshua W. Miller, senior researcher involved in the study and nutrition expert from the Rutgers School of Environmental & Biological Sciences, said that his team found a significant link between low vitamin D levels and “accelerated decline in cognitive function.”
The association was observed in all ethnic groups, but Latinos and African Americans were the groups with the most members that had low levels of vitamin D. Dr. Miller added that more research needs to be conducted to learn whether vitamin D supplements may stave off cognitive decline.
Past studies had shown that the vitamin is absolutely necessary for the body to build strong bones, it helps muscles move, nerves to carry electrical signals faster, and the immune system to be ready to repel harmful viruses and bacteria.
Usually, vitamin D supplementation is not a requirement because the skin automatically processes the vitamin when it is exposed to sunlight. Official public health reports show that most people get at least their minimum dose of vitamin D this way.
But Dr. Miller noticed that vitamin D can also have a positive effect on human brain cells.
The recent study involved more than 380 volunteers who were monitored over the course of eight years. The average age of the group was 75. About 33 percent of study participants were diagnosed with a minor cognitive impairment, while slightly over 17 percent had a full-fledged diagnosis of dementia.
Dementia is a general moniker used to refer to many forms of cognitive decline that affect daily life of the patient. The most common from of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.
About 26 percent of study participants had a deficiency in vitamin D, while 35 percent had low levels but they did not reached the deficient status. Researchers learned the African Americans and Latinos were more prone to display low vitamin levels than their white or Asian peers.
Participants who had low vitamin D levels also displayed a higher rate of cognitive impairment than patients with normal levels. The most common forms of impairments were memory loss, poor decision making skills and judgment.
The study was published Monday in JAMA Neurology.
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