Low levels of vitamin D linked to higher dementia risk

Published 6 August 2014

People with very low levels of vitamin D in the blood may be twice as likely to develop dementia, according to a large British study published in Neurology today (6 August 2014).

According to the research, those with low levels of vitamin D in the blood were 53 per cent more likely to develop any form of dementia, and those with severe vitamin D deficiencies were at a 125 per cent greater risk.

Led by Dr David Llewellyn at the University of Exeter, the study involved 1,658 people over the age of 65 who did not have dementia at the beginning of the study. The participants were followed for an average of six years, after which 171 participants developed dementia and 102 had Alzheimer's disease.

In addition to an increased risk of developing any form of dementia, people with low levels of vitamin D were also nearly 70 per cent more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease, and those with severe deficiencies were over 120 per cent more likely to develop the condition.

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer's Society said:

'Shedding light on risk factors for dementia is one of the most important tasks facing today's health researchers. While earlier studies have suggested that a lack of the sunshine vitamin is linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease, this study found that people with very low vitamin D levels were more than twice as likely to develop any kind of dementia.

'During this hottest of summers, hitting the beach for just 15 minutes of sunshine is enough to boost your vitamin D levels. However, we're not quite ready to say that sunlight or vitamin D supplements will reduce your risk of dementia. Large scale clinical trials are needed to determine whether increasing vitamin D levels in those with deficiencies can help prevent dementia from developing.'

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