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When scientists at the University of Exeter Medical School in England looked at the vitamin status of people who were having brain problems as they aged, they were shocked to find out how badly the brain depends on one particular nutrient.
The study confirms that if you don’t get enough vitamin D, you run a substantially increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as you get older.
The people in the research who had the most pronounced vitamin D deficiencies doubled their risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers examined elderly Americans who were taking part in what’s called the “Cardiovascular Health Study.” Their analysis shows that people in the study who were merely moderately deficient in vitamin D suffered a 53 percent increased risk of developing dementia of any type. The increased risk jumped to 125 percent in people who were severely vitamin D deficient.
The study showed the same kinds of results for developing Alzheimer’s disease. The people moderately deficient in vitamin D suffered a 69 percent increase in their Alzheimer’s risk. Severe deficiency led to a 122 percent increased risk.
“We expected to find an association between low Vitamin D levels and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but the results were surprising – we actually found that the association was twice as strong as we anticipated,” says researcher David Llewellyn.
Most people get their vitamin D from three primary sources. Your skin makes vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. (Although in the winter, in northern states, the sunlight is too weak to help.) Your foods can provide vitamin D if you consume oily fish. And vitamin D supplements can also supply the vitamin.
The researchers point out that as you age your skin is less effective at making vitamin D. That can make your brain more vulnerable to dementia and Alzheimer’s as the years pass by.
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