A first-of-its-kind study reveals that the lack of vitamin D leads to dementia. The somber findings come from University of South Australia researchers.
Researchers investigated the association between vitamin D, neuroimaging features and the risk of dementia and stroke. The genetic research showed a direct link between dementia and a lack of the “sunlight” vitamin.
“Vitamin D is a hormone precursor that is increasingly recognized for widespread effects, including on brain health, but until now it has been very difficult to examine what would happen if we were able to prevent vitamin D deficiency,” says Elina Hyppönen, senior investigator and director of the university’s Australian Center for Precision Health, in a statement.
The study found that low levels of vitamin D were associated with lower brain volumes and an increased risk of dementia and stroke. Researchers also say that genetic analyses supported a direct casual effect of vitamin D deficiency and dementia.
“In some contexts, where vitamin D deficiency is relatively common, our findings have important implications for dementia risks. Indeed, in this UK population we observed that up to 17 percent of dementia cases might have been avoided by boosting vitamin D levels to be within a normal range,” says Hyppönen.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 5 million Americans suffer from dementia. One recent study predicts that dementia cases will triple worldwide by 2050.
“Dementia is a progressive and debilitating disease that can devastate individuals and families alike,” says Hyppönen. “If we’re able to change this reality through ensuring that none of us is severely vitamin D deficient, it would also have further benefits and we could change the health and wellbeing for thousands.”
The study was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.