Diet, Supplements Can Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
People who lack vitamin D face double the risk of dementia, scientists have discovered. More than 800,000 people suffer from the condition in the UK. There is no cure.
Previous research had suggested those with low vitamin D were more likely to develop mental problems. But the major new study, published in the journal Neurology, is the first in the world to confirm a strong link with dementia. It suggests upping vitamin D intake could delay dementia or even prevent the disease altogether.
Vitamin D can come from sunlight on the skin, foods such as oily fish, and taking supplements.
Lead researcher Dr David Llewellyn, of the University of Exeter, said: “We expected to find an association between low Vitamin D levels and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but the results were surprising – we actually found that the association was twice as strong as we anticipated.
“Clinical trials are now needed to establish whether eating foods such as oily fish or taking vitamin D supplements can delay or even prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. We need to be cautious at this early stage and our latest results do not demonstrate that low vitamin D levels cause dementia. That said, our findings are very encouraging, and even if a small number of people could benefit, this would have enormous public health implications given the devastating and costly nature of dementia.”
The study of 1,600 Americans aged 65 and over found those with even a moderate vitamin D deficiency faced a 69% higher risk of dementia. For those who were severely deficient, the risk increased to 125%.
Dr Simon Ridley, head of science at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Vitamin D is essential for keeping our bodies healthy, and although these results don’t suggest people should start dosing up on supplements, it’s important for people to ensure they are getting enough vitamin D.
“Anyone who is considering changing their diet to include vitamin supplements should speak to a doctor.”
Dr Doug Brown, director of research and development at Alzheimer’s Society, added: “While earlier studies have suggested that a lack of the sunshine vitamin is linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease , this study found that people with very low vitamin D levels were more than twice as likely to develop any kind of dementia.
“During this hottest of summers, hitting the beach for just 15 minutes of sunshine is enough to boost your vitamin D levels.”
Experts say global clinical trials are now urgently needed to determine whether a lack of vitamin D actually causes dementia – which this study has not established.
The number of people with dementia in the UK is expected to rise to more than one million by 2021.
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