Vitamin D may be the wonder vitamin of the decade and one that few Americans get enough of. Studies show that low vitamin D levels can contribute to a variety of chronic disease including diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, and even mental illness such as depression. Despite this, most people are deficient in this important vitamin when blood levels are tested. Now, it’s hypothesized that low vitamin D levels may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia in the aging population. Is there an association between Alzheimer’s disease and low vitamin D levels?
Do Low Vitamin D Levels Cause Alzheimer’s Disease?
In an article published on foodnavigator.com, Dr. William Grant from the Sunlight, Nutrition, and Health Research Center expressed his belief that Alzheimer’s disease and low vitamin D levels are strongly linked. He emphasized that vitamin D appears to help prevent many of the diseases associated with dementia such as diabetes and heart disease.
Some studies have also shown a correlation between tooth loss and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease; and low vitamin D levels are thought to contribute to tooth loss by increasing the risk of periodontal disease. In addition, vitamin D has also been shown to be important in normal brain development and low levels have been associated with other neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. Several small studies have shown that people with low levels of vitamin D perform poorly on mental aptitude tests compared to those with normal levels.
Alzheimer’s and Low Vitamin D Levels: More Evidence?
Another interesting finding that supports an association between Alzheimer’s disease and low vitamin D levels is the observation made by scientists at Vanderbilt University. They found that a gene variation that appears to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease is located adjacent to a gene region that regulates vitamin D activity. It appears that Alzheimer’s disease and low vitamin D levels may be closely intertwined even on a genetic level.
How Common Are Low Levels of Vitamin D?
Despite the fact that low vitamin D levels have been associated with a range of diseases, including Alzheimer’s, it’s estimated that over eighty percent of people are deficient in this vitamin, particularly the elderly due to their lack of sun exposure. The sun is the primary source of vitamin D for most people since it’s difficult to get an adequate amount of vitamin D from diet alone.
Few foods are good sources of vitamin D with the exception of fatty fish and vitamin D fortified products such as milk and eggs. With more people wearing sunscreens to block sun exposure, vitamin D supplements are being recommended by some experts. It’s best to get vitamins and other nutrients naturally from foods rather than supplements, but for some people supplements may be necessary to get adequate levels of vitamin D. Alzheimer’s disease and low levels of vitamin D, are they associated? Hopefully, further research will clarify this issue.
This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.