Low vitamin D linked to mental decline in elderly Chinese

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Low levels of vitamin D are linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline and impairment in elderly Chinese people.


Produced naturally in the skin when exposed to sunlight, and also found in food such as fish oils and eggs, vitamin D helps maintain healthy bones and muscles. It also plays a key part in brain function. Low levels are associated with greater risk of cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.

The new study, published in the Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Medical Sciences, is the first large-scale prospective study in Asia to make an association between vitamin D status and risk of brain function in the Chinese elderly.

The 1,202 participants of 60 years or older from the Chinese Longitudinal Health Longevity Survey had their baseline vitamin D levels measured at the start of the study, and their cognitive abilities assessed over two years.

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Regardless of gender and age, subjects with lower vitamin D levels at the start of the research were approximately twice as likely to demonstrate significant cognitive decline over time. Furthermore, low vitamin D levels at baseline also raised the danger of future cognitive impairment by up to threefold.

“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,” says Professor David Matchar, director of the Health Services and Systems Research Program at Duke-National University of Singapore.

The findings verify the hypothesis that vitamin D has a protective role against neurone damage and loss and offer fundamental information for more focused investigations into the effects of vitamin D supplements on cognitive decline—and could also identify effective interventions to stem the growing prevalence of cognitive decline in aging populations.

Source: National University of Singapore

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