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Preventing Cognitive “D-cline” With Vitamin D

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Preventing Cognitive “D-cline” With Vitamin D

Edward Gruber, CN

More and more, research is demonstrating a link between vitamin D deficiency and cognitive impairment.

Researchers from the Peninsula Medical School, the University of Cambridge and the University of Michigan, for example,identified a relationship between vitamin D and cognitive impairment in a large-scale study of almost 2000 adults aged 65. The study, which was reported in the Journal of Geriatric Psychology and Neurology, found that as levels of vitamin D went down, levels of cognitive impairment went up. Compared to those with optimum levels of D, those with the lowest levels were more than twice as likely to be cognitively impaired.

In yet another study, a group of international researchers found that subjects who were severely deficient in vitamin D upon enrollment in the trial were 60 percent more likely to experience significant cognitive decline and 31 percent likelier to develop reductions in mental flexibility compared to those with sufficient levels. The findings were published in the July 12, 2010 issue of the American Medical Association journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

According to the trial’s lead researcher, “Vitamin D deficiency is … a highly promising therapeutic target for the prevention of dementia, particularly as supplements are inexpensive and safe and have already been shown to reduce the risk of falls, fractures and death.”

D, a Key to Mobility?

A recent study, conducted by a Wake Forest University School of Medicine team and reported in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, found a significant relationship between low vitamin D in older adults and poor physical performance and disability. The study also showed that many people over age 60 have low vitamin D levels.

There are a number of factors that may contribute to the fact that older adults are particularly prone to low vitamin D, among them less exposure to sunlight and decreased efficiency in producing vitamin D from sun exposure as compared to younger adults. Older adults also may not get enough vitamin D from dietary sources.

In an interesting case, doctors at the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, State University of New York at Buffalo first attributed the severe muscle weakness of five wheelchair-bound patients to their respective conditions: two were elderly, one had Type1 diabetes, one had a condition known as carcinoid syndrome and one suffered from malnourishment due to poor oral intake. But after the patients were tested and treated for vitamin D deficiency, their conditions began to improve. After six weeks, four of the patients became fully mobile and the fifth showed significant improvement.

In my own practice, I often see dramatic improvements in the mobility and muscle strength of elderly patients whose vitamin D levels are brought up or close to optimal levels. Thus, I recommend Vitamin D as a great way to age gracefully.