AsianScientist (Jul. 29, 2016) – An international research team has found a link between low vitamin D levels and an increased subsequent risk of cognitive decline and impairment in Chinese elderly. Their findings were published in The Journals of Gerontology.
Produced primarily in the skin upon exposure to sunlight, vitamin D is necessary for maintaining healthy bones and muscles. It is now believed to also play a significant role in maintaining healthy brain function. An increased risk of cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases has been observed in those with low vitamin D levels, and studies from Europe and North America have linked low vitamin D levels with future cognitive decline.
This study, led by Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) in Singapore in collaboration with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, asked similar questions of vitamin D levels and cognition in the Chinese elderly. The researchers looked at over 1,200 study subjects of 60 years of age and above who took part in the Chinese Longitudinal Health Longevity Survey. The team measured the participants’ baseline vitamin D levels at the start of the study and then assessed their cognitive abilities over two years.
Regardless of gender and extent of advanced age, individuals with lower vitamin D levels at the start of the study were approximately twice as likely to exhibit significant cognitive decline over time. In addition, low vitamin D levels at baseline also increased the risk of future cognitive impairment by 2-3 times.
“Although this study was conducted on subjects from China, the results are applicable to regions in Asia where a large proportion of the elderly are ethnically Chinese, like Singapore,” said lead author Professor David Matchar, who is the director of the Health Services and Systems Research Program at Duke-NUS.
These findings reinforce the notion that vitamin D protects against neuron damage and loss, and call for more intensive investigations into the effects of vitamin D supplements on cognitive decline. Better understanding of the mechanism by which vitamin D protects neurons may help identify effective interventions to stem the rapidly increasing prevalence of cognitive decline observed in aging populations.
The article can be found at: Matchar et al. (2016) Vitamin D Levels and the Risk of Cognitive Decline in Chinese Elderly People: the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey.
Source: Duke-NUS Medical School; Photo: Shutterstock.
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