Dementia affects around 55 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
It is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people, which affects their behavior and neurological functions.
But there may be hope to stop this debilitating condition. A world-first study from the University of South Australia has revealed that there is a direct link between dementia and deficiency in vitamin D.
These are their findings:
- Low levels of vitamin D have connections with lower brain volumes and a heightened risk of dementia and stroke
- Genetic analyses provide evidence of a causal effect between vitamin D deficiency and dementia.
- In some populations, as much as 17 per cent of dementia cases might be prevented by increasing everyone’s levels of vitamin D to normal (50 nmol/L).
With support from the National Health and Medical Research Council, the genetic study involved data analysis of 294,514 participants from the UK Biobank.
The researchers examined the impact of low levels of vitamin D (25 nmol/L) and the risk of stroke and dementia. The team used Nonlinear Mendelian randomization (MR) — a method that utulizes measured variation in genes to investigate the causal effect of a modifiable exposure on disease — to test for underlying causality for neuroimaging results for both dementia and stroke.
Senior investigator and Director of UniSA’s Australian Centre for Precision Health Professor Elina Hyppönen stated that the results are vital for the prevention of dementia and appreciating the need to eliminate vitamin D deficiency.
“Vitamin D is a hormone precursor that is increasingly recognised 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,” said Professor Hyppönen. “Our study is the first to examine the effect of very low levels of vitamin D on the risks of dementia and stroke, using robust genetic analyses among a large population.”
“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 per cent of dementia cases might have been avoided by boosting vitamin D levels to be within a normal range,” added Professor Hyppönen.
Professor Hyppönen further recommended that for anybody who may not be getting adequate vitamin D from sunlight, a change of diet may not be sufficient and supplementation of this vitamin may be necessary.Whizzco