New research shows that vitamin D may be a vital component for the cognitive health of women as they age.
Higher vitamin D dietary intake is associated with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to research conducted by a team led by Cedric Annweiler, M.D., Ph.D., at the Angers University Hospital in France.
At the same time, a team of researchers led by Yelena Slinin, M.D., M.S., at the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis found that low vitamin D levels among older women are associated with higher odds of cognitive impairment and a higher risk of cognitive decline.
Vitamin D is an important, essential vitamin people obtain largely from eating foods like fatty fish, butter and cheese or drinking fortified milk. The body makes Vitamin D when it is exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun.
Slinin’s team based its analysis on 6,257 older women who had vitamin D levels measured during the Study of Osteopathic Fractures and whose cognitive function was tested by the Mini-Mental State Examination and/or Trail Making Test Part B.
Very low levels of vitamin D — less than 10 nanograms per milliliter of blood serum — were associated with higher odds of cognitive impairment at baseline.
Low vitamin D levels — less than 20 nanograms per milliliter — among cognitively-impaired women were associated with a higher risk of cognitive decline, as measured by performance on the Mini-Mental State Examination, according to the researchers.
Annweieler’s team’s findings were based on data from 498 women who participated in the Toulouse cohort of the Epidemiology of Osteoporosis study.
Women who developed Alzheimer’s disease had lower baseline vitamin D intakes — an average of 50.3 micrograms per week — than those who developed other dementias (an average of 63.6 micrograms per week) or no dementia at all (an average of 59.0 micrograms per week), these researchers found.
These new studies follow an article published in the Journals of Gerontology Series A earlier this year that found that both men and women who don’t get enough vitamin D — either from diet, supplements, or sun exposure — may be at increased risk of developing mobility limitations and disability.
The two new studies appear in the Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.