More and more research centers and universities are dedicating their resources to studying the properties of vitamin D. Indeed, vitamin D is not only the vitamin of strong and robust bones, but it is also the vitamin that supports the immune system and, as we can learn thanks to the study we are talking about today, also the vitamin that protects the brain from dementia. The research was published in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia, Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring by a team from the University of Calgary's Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Canada, and the University of Exeter, UK (Ghraheremani et al, DADM, March 2023).
Vitamin D and brain health, what we know
Science is dedicating itself to the study of all those modifiable factors, which are under our control and on which we can act, to prevent or at least delay the development of dementia in all its forms, including Alzheimer's. Among these factors, vitamin D is capturing the interest of scientists. In fact, as demonstrated by previous studies, vitamin D participates in the removal of toxic aggregates formed by amyloid beta proteins and protects against the accumulation of tau proteins, both conditions characteristic of Alzheimer's. In addition, low levels of vitamin D have been found to be associated with an increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's. However, the studies performed so far on the neuroprotective role of vitamin D supplementation have not been conclusive. This is because the population samples analyzed were small and followed for a short period of time. Now, however, science seems to have managed to find an answer and we are talking about this today.
Vitamin D intake reduces dementia risk, the study
Canadian and British scientists collected health and lifestyle data from 12,388 people, all adults, with an average age of 71 and healthy. The volunteers were then followed up for ten years from the moment of recruitment. This makes the study one of the largest and longest-running in this field. The researchers first assessed whether the volunteers were taking vitamin D supplements of any kind and then their health status over the years. What emerged is that any type of vitamin D supplement shows a neuroprotective action, helping to reduce the risk of developing dementia by up to 40% compared to those who have never taken this supplement. The greatest results were observed in women and in those who, when they started taking vitamin D supplements, had no impairment of cognitive function, a condition that is instead associated with a higher risk of dementia.
The study is not concluded and is continuing, with the aim of shedding more light on the link between vitamin D taken through supplements and brain health. In particular, the researchers want to understand how vitamin D intake can change cognitive function and memory over time. Not only that, it may also be interesting to evaluate whether the vitamin D synthesized following exposure to sunlight has the same protective action. It is legitimate to assume that this is the case but we need to wait for a demonstration with a scientific basis. While waiting for science to clarify these aspects as well, we currently know that vitamin D taken as a supplement can prove to be really beneficial, even for brain health. It should be remembered, however, that vitamin D, although easily available in pharmacies, must be taken with caution and under the supervision of a doctor to avoid an excess that can cause damage to the heart and kidneys.