Is vitamin D deficiency linked to Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia?

There are several risk factors for the development of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Based on an increasing number of studies linking these risk factors with Vitamin D deficiency, an article in the current issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (May 2009) by William B. Grant, PhD of the Sunlight, Nutrition, and Health Research Center (SUNARC) suggests that further investigation of possible direct or indirect linkages between Vitamin D and these dementias is needed.

Low serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] have been associated with increased risk for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, depression, dental caries, osteoporosis, and periodontal disease, all of which are either considered risk factors for dementia or have preceded incidence of dementia. In 2008, a number of studies reported that those with higher serum 25(OH)D levels had greatly reduced risk of incidence or death from cardiovascular diseases.

Several studies have correlated tooth loss with development of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia. There are two primary ways that people lose teeth: dental caries and periodontal disease. Both conditions are linked to low vitamin D levels, with induction of human cathelicidin by 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D being the mechanism.

There is also laboratory evidence for the role of vitamin D in neuroprotection and reducing inflammation, and ample biological evidence to suggest an important role for vitamin D in brain development and function.

Given these supportive lines of evidence, Dr. Grant suggests that studies of incidence of dementia with respect to prediagnostic serum 25(OH)D or vitamin D supplementation are warranted. In addition, since the elderly are generally vitamin D deficient and since vitamin D has so many health benefits, those over the age of 60 years should consider having their serum 25(OH)D tested, looking for a level of at least 30 ng/mL but preferably over 40 ng/mL, and supplementing with 1000-2000 IU/day of vitamin D3 or increased time in the sun spring, summer, and fall if below those values.

Writing in the article, Dr. Grant states, "There are established criteria for causality in a biological system. The important criteria include strength of association, consistency of findings, determination of the dose-response relation, an understanding of the mechanisms, and experimental verification. To date, the evidence includes observational studies supporting a beneficial role of vitamin D in reducing the risk of diseases linked to dementia such as vascular and metabolic diseases, as well as an understanding of the role of vitamin D in reducing the risk of several mechanisms that lead to dementia."

More information: The article is "Does Vitamin D Reduce the Risk of Dementia?" by William B. Grant, Ph.D. It is published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 17:1 (May 2009).

Source: IOS Press (news : web)


8 Responses

  1. Interesting article Dave,
    Wonder if it’s ever too late to help correct some of the above problems by now taking doses of Vit. D? Did go back to a previous article of yours on how much to take.

    Glad you had a wonderful vacation. Here in WI we’re still in high 60/low 70’s. But hot months still ahead. My thermastat is way off so looking forward to warmer weather. I’m still freezing at 70!.
    Gentle Hugs, stay well my friend

    kat from WI
    Vascular Dementia
    dx 4/04
    symptoms 2002
    Age 63

  2. […] There are several risk factors for the development of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Based on an increasing number of studies linking these risk factors with Vitamin D deficiency, an article in the current issue of the … Alzheimers Test News […]

  3. Hello David and Pam,

    I haven’t read all the Blogs you have written, but
    appreciation for what you are doing is still there.
    I just barely got the mail done, and couldn’t answer
    all of them encluding your Blog. Sorry, David and Pam.

    I take Vitamin D daily. I hope it helps me at 76 to stave off Alzheimer’s a little longer. My mother had vascular Dementia, and my younger sister had Alzheimer’s. As we age it is almost inevitable.

    This is a good article and reinforces my thankfulness that I take Vitamin D.

    Glad you had a good vacation. Stay well, and be happy.
    Love a lot,

  4. i just wrote about Vitamin D in my May newsletter to families of residents in the memory care unit i work at as an activities director.

    What i learned doing my research is that exposure to sunshine is the best, most potent way to get Vitamin D. It is good to take an oral supplement and eat foods that are rich in the vitamin like shellfish, salmon & mushrooms, enriched foods and dairy products, but none of these comes close to spending time outdoors in the sun. In tandem with a supplement and diet that includes foods that contain Vitamin D, one can receive what they need.

    There are, of course, concerns with this because of the risk of skin cancer, but even spending 15 minutes in the sun drenched garden, walking, or just sitting and basking, is a simple way to provide one with a good dose of Vitamin D, as well as enjoyment.

    Good article, Dr. Thomas.

    • Christine…………… are absolutely correct! Exposure to sunlight is one of the best ways to get vitamin D.

  5. Hi David,

    Scary stuff as I recently was diagbosed with a mega vit D defeciency. I see the dr again in 3 weeks for another blood test, hopefully my levels will have improved. I wonder how long they’ve been low. It seems the past few months an accumulation of events have contributed to me not getting outside as much. Now I begin the day by eating brekky outside. I will be so careful of my levels from now on in.

    Thanks for the info and I read your post on Oprah. Power can be a dangerous thing.

    sending you, Pam and Chad lots of best wishes

    • To: no1daughteroflewydad Please keep us posted on how you may feel differently after the vitamin D deficiency is totally corrected. I’m curious.


  6. Scary thought, and I had no idea about the sunlight affecting levels, wow! I don’t like the possible symptoms and long term risks if you do have vitamin d deficiency and don’t know or don’t deal with it. I’m taking supplements!

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