Taking vitamin D supplements may help prevent dementia, according to a new large-scale study of 12,388 participants who did not have dementia when they enrolled.
To examine the vitamin’s association for participants with an average age of 71, researchers from the Brain Institute at the University of Calgary in Canada and the University of Exeter in the UK teamed up with the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating United States Center.
Of the group, 37% (4,637) took vitamin D supplements.
The team found it was associated with 40% fewer dementia diagnoses in the group that took the supplements.
Of the entire sample, 2,696 participants progressed to dementia over ten years; of these, 2017 (75%) had no vitamin D exposure during all visits prior to dementia diagnosis, and 679 (25%) had initial exposure.
They also found the vitamin linked to living dementia-free for longer periods of time.
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Professor Zahinoor Ismail, from the University of Calgary and University of Exeter, who led the research, said: ‘We know that vitamin D has effects on the brain which could have implications for reducing dementia, but so far research has yielded conflicting results. .
“Our results provide key insights into which groups might be specifically targeted for vitamin D supplementation. Overall, we found evidence to suggest that earlier supplementation might be particularly beneficial, before cognitive decline begins. .
While vitamin D was effective in all groups, the team found that the effects were significantly greater in women than in men.
Previous research has shown that insufficient levels of vitamin D are linked to a higher risk of dementia. Vitamin D is involved in the clearance of amyloid in the brain, the accumulation of which is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have also shown that vitamin D can help protect the brain against the buildup of tau, another protein implicated in the development of dementia.
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The effects of vitamin D were also significantly greater in people who did not carry the APOEe4 gene, which is known to be at higher risk for Alzheimer’s dementia, compared to non-carriers. The authors suggest that people with the APOEe4 gene absorb vitamin D better from their gut, which could reduce the effect of vitamin D supplementation. However, no blood levels were taken to test this hypothesis.
“We now need clinical trials to confirm if this is really the case,” said Dr Byron Creese from Exeter, co-author of the study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring. “The ongoing VitaMIND study at the University of Exeter explores this question further by randomly assigning participants to take vitamin D or a placebo and examining changes in memory and thinking tests over time. .”
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The VitaMIND study is conducted through PROTECT, an online study open to people aged 40 and over. In PROTECT, annual detailed lifestyle factor questionnaires combine with cognitive testing, to determine what keeps the brain sharp later in life. For more information or to register, visit their website. In Canada, the associated CAN-PROTECT study on aging in people over 40 also focuses on dementia care.
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