Vitamin D Protection: More sun can help protect against dementia and stroke

Vitamin D Protection: More sun can help protect against dementia and stroke

ADELAIDE, Australia – More sunshine could help avert dementia, according to a new study that reveals a direct link between vitamin D deficiency and cognitive decline.

The first study in the world found that the number of dementia cases could drop by almost a fifth if people with vitamin D deficiency took more supplements to get to healthy levels. However, the pills are not the only solution, because the skin produces a “sun vitamin” after exposure to UV radiation.

A team from the University of South Australia looked at nearly 300,000 people at the UK’s Biobank to study the impact of low vitamin D levels and the risk of dementia and stroke. They found that low levels of vitamin D were associated with lower brain volume and an increased risk of both conditions.

Further genetic analyzes have confirmed the causal effect of vitamin D deficiency and dementia. Researchers report that up to 17 percent of dementia cases in some populations can be prevented with higher vitamin D intake.

Dementia is one of the leading causes of disability and dependence among older people around the world and affects thinking and behavior as patients age. More than 55 million people worldwide suffer from dementia, with 10 million new cases diagnosed each year. The number of dementias worldwide is estimated to triple to more than 150 million by 2050.

Vitamin D has a major effect on the brain

The study’s author, Professor Elina Hyppönen, chief researcher and director of the Australian UniSA Center for Precision Health, says the findings are important in preventing dementia and recognizing the need to combat vitamin D deficiency.

“Vitamin D is a precursor hormone that is increasingly recognized for its widespread effects, including brain health, but so far it has been very difficult to investigate what would happen if we were able to prevent vitamin D deficiency,” says prof. Hyppönen University Release.

“Our study is the first to examine the effect of very low vitamin D levels on the risks of dementia and stroke using robust genetic analysis in a large population.

“In some contexts where vitamin D deficiency is relatively common, our findings have important implications for dementia risks. Indeed, in this British population, we have observed that up to 17 per cent of dementia cases could have been prevented by raising vitamin D levels to the normal range.

The genetic study analyzed data from 294,514 participants from the British Biobank and examined the impact of low levels of vitamin D (25 nmol / l) and the risk of dementia and stroke.

Nonlinear Mendelian randomization (MR) – a method that uses measured gene variations to investigate the causal effect of modifiable exposure on disease – has helped researchers test the basic causality of neuroimaging, dementia and stroke results.

“Dementia is a progressive and debilitating disease that can devastate individuals and families,” says prof. Hyppönen.

“If we can change this reality by ensuring that none of us have a severe vitamin D deficiency, it will also have other benefits and we could change health and well-being for thousands.”

“Most of us will probably be fine, but for anyone who, for whatever reason, may not be getting enough vitamin D from the sun, dietary adjustments may not be enough and supplementation may be needed.”

The study is published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

South West News Service writer Jim Leffman contributed to this report.

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