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Links between vitamin D and neurological degeneration in the elderly

Kaiseraugst, CH, 15 Aug 2014 10:15 CEST

A new study has found a strong association between baseline vitamin D concentrations and the risk of incident all-cause dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The research, published in Neurology , suggests that vitamin D ‘sufficiency’ in the context of dementia risk may be in the region of 50nmol/L. High rates of vitamin D deficiency are found among older adults with more two-thirds of the US population not meeting the estimated average requirement (EAR) of vitamin D.  

The study, carried out by University of Exeter, involved 1,658 adults over the age of 65 who did not suffer from dementia, and vitamin D serum concentrations were measured. 171 participants developed all-cause dementia, including 102 cases of Alzheimer’s disease, through a mean follow-up period of 5.6 years.

The risk of developing both all-cause dementia and Alzheimer’s disease was significantly higher in participants who were classified as either deficient (≥25 to <50nmol/L) or severely deficient (<25nmol/L) in vitamin D, compared to participants with sufficient concentrations (≥50nmol/L). In minimally adjusted models, those who were deficient had about a 51% increased risk of all-cause dementia, whereas the increased risk for those who were severely deficient was about 122%.

This study shows a strong correlation between low vitamin D levels and the risk of developing dementia, further demonstrating the critical importance of micronutrients in protecting the aging brain,” explains Professor Manfred Eggersdorfer, Senior Vice-President, Nutrition Science & Advocacy at DSM and Professor for Healthy Ageing at the University of Groningen.

These new results are likely to prove useful in shaping future randomized controlled trials to investigate whether vitamin D supplementation can be used to delay or prevent the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in older adults. With an aging population, it is expected that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease will increase and, in the absence of a cure, it is important that we find alternative ways to address neurological degeneration.”

DSM has recently published a new paper to further characterize the consequences of insufficient vitamin and nutrient supply on the aging brain . The manuscript, published in Nutrition, highlights the contributing factors to the malnourishment of the elderly which is linked to the progression of pathological events causing Alzheimer’s type dementia. It argues that, to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, neuronal health must be maintained for as long as possible and concludes that the optimal supply of micronutrients plays a vital metabolic role in supporting the normal functioning of the brain.

1 Littlejohns, T.J. et al. Vitamin D and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer disease. Neurology 2014;83:1–9. Published Ahead of Print on August 6, 2014 as 10.1212/WNL.0000000000000755
2 Fulgoni V. L., III, Keast, D. R. et al., 2011
3 Mohajeri MH, Troesch B, Weber P. Inadequate supply of vitamins and DHA in the elderly: implications for brain aging and Alzheimer’s type dementia. Nutrition Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2014.06.016