Quick Study: The Latest on Vitamin D and Dementia

New research shows a clear link, plus 3 ways to get more D 
By​ ​Laine Bergeson​ for ​Next Avenue  
Thinkstock image of Vitamin D

Older adults who are severely​ ​vitamin D deficient​ have a 122 percent increased risk of developing​ ​Alzheimer’s​, according to a new study published in the journal Neurology. The research team, lead by​ ​Dr. David Llewellyn​ at the​ ​University of Exeter Medical School​, anticipated a link between vitamin D deficiency and cognitive problems (previous research has shown a general correlation). But they were surprised by how high the risk was. 
“The association was twice as strong as we anticipated,” Llewellyn says. 
Adults moderately deficient in vitamin D had a 53 percent increased risk of developing dementia of any kind. Those who were severely deficient had 125 percent increased risk. 
The large-scale study looked at 1,658 adults older than 65 over the course of six years. 
Clinicians have stopped short of saying that supplementing with vitamin D will reduce the risk of dementia — more studies need to be done, they add — but with one billion people worldwide estimated to be low in vitamin D and approximately 44 million suffering from dementia, this is a significant, and possibly encouraging, finding. 
3 Ways To Get Your D 
Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to a wide variety of health problems, from cancer to decreased immune function to depression. To maintain optimal vitamin D levels: 
1. Let the sun shine in.​ ​When exposed to sunlight, our skin converts the rays into vitamin D. Older adults’ skin may be less efficient at this, however, making it more important to get vitamin D levels tested and perhaps take a supplement. 
2. Find other healthy sources.​ Vitamin D is found in certain oily fish,​ ​mushrooms​, and supplements. If you take vitamin D in supplement form, keep in mind that it is better absorbed by the body when eaten with a meal containing healthy fat. 
3. Get tested.​ You can ask your doctor for a vitamin D test or order one through a direct-to-consumer service such as​ ​Direct Labs​. Testing may be especially important for people living in northern climates, where exposure to bright summer sunlight (the kind that triggers vitamin D production in the body) is limited. 

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