New Study Finds Link Between Vitamin D Supplements And Lower Dementia Risk


There are a number of studies that share the benefits of taking vitamin D supplements. Some of these include helping the body absorb calcium and phosphorus, both of which are essential for building and keeping bones stronger. Another is that it helps lessen cancer cell growth, while also reducing inflammation within the body.

But now, a new, large-scale study has found that vitamin D supplementation has also been linked to helping people ward of dementia. The study included 12,388 participants that were considered dementia-free when they joined the study.

Researchers at the University of Calgary’s Brain Institute in Canada and the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom partnered with the US National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center to take a look at the association between vitamin D and participants with a median age of 71. From that group, 4,637 – or 37 percent – took vitamin D supplements.

What the team found is that vitamin D was linked with at least 40 percent fewer dementia diagnosis within the group that took supplements.

Throughout the entire sample of participants, 2,696 of them eventually progressed to dementia over a ten year period. Amongst this group, 2,017 – or 75% – had zero exposure to vitamin D throughout all the visits before the dementia diagnosis, while 679 – 25% – had baseline exposure. They also saw that the vitamin was associated to living dementia-free for longer periods of time as well.

According to the lead researcher, Professor Zahinoor Ismail of the University of Calgary and University of Exeter, said, “We know that vitamin D has some effects in the brain that could have implications for reducing dementia, however so far, research has yielded conflicting results.”

“Our findings give key insights into groups who might be specifically targeted for vitamin D supplementation. Overall, we found evidence to suggest that earlier supplementation might be particularly beneficial, before the onset of cognitive decline,” he added.

Although the team managed to see how vitamin D was effective in all the groups, they also found that the effects were far greater in females than they were in males.

Moreover, former research also found that those with insufficient vitamin D levels, they were linked to a higher risk of dementia. Vitamin D is also said to be involved in the ‘clearance of amyloid in the brain,’ which happens to be one of the main accumulations in the brain, which is a hallmark for Alzheimer’s disease. Other studies have also found that vitamin D may also aid in protecting the brain against the buildup of tau, a protein that’s also involved in the development of dementia.

In addition, the research found that the effects of vitamin D were substantially more in those who didn’t have the APOEe4 gene, which is the gene that is known to show a higher risk of Alzheimer’s dementia, as compared to those without the gene.

The authors also share that those individuals that carry the APOEe4 gene may have the ability to absorb vitamin D better from the intestines, which as a result, reduces the vitamin’s supplementation effect. But the researchers failed to get blood samples to test this hypothesis, therefore they don’t have the actual evidence of this.

As for co-author of the study, Exeter’s Dr. Byron Creese, he said, “We now need clinical trials to confirm whether this is really the case. The ongoing VitaMIND study at the University of Exeter is exploring this issue further by randomly assigning participants to either take vitamin D or placebo and examining changes in memory and thinking tests over time.” The study was published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring.

This VitaMIND Study is run via PROTECT, which happens to be an online study that’s open to those age 40 and above. In the PROTECT annual questionnaires, it requests specific details on lifestyle factors combined with other cognitive testing in order to figure out what keeps the brain sharp later on in life.

If you’d like to learn more or sign up, you can visit the PROTECT website here. As for Canada, the study on aging is called CAN-PROTECT, and it’s for those 40 and above, with additional focus on caregiving in dementia.