Vitamin D and Neurocognition

An article published recently in the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that individuals 55 years of age and over with Vitamin D deficiency have an increased likelihood of having difficulties performing activities of daily living. The study suggested a positive effect of Vitamin D on functional performance. Parameters tested included (1) walking up and down stairs for 15 minutes without resting, (2) dressing and undressing, (3) sitting down in and standing up from a chair, (4) cutting toenails, (5) walking outdoors for 5 minutes without rest and (6) using personal or public transportation. Vitamin D deficiency was associated with an increased incidence of functional limitation or having an increase in the number of limitations after the data was adjusted for age, gender, BMI, chronic diseases, level of education and level of urbanization.

Vitamin D is actually a hormone with receptors in skeletal muscle including the heart, in the brain and in almost every organ in the body. Deficiency is widespread and easily remedied by supplementing with Vitamin D. This propelled me to another study from Tufts University, and here is where it gets interesting….

We know that nutritional factors play an important role in promoting health. A preponderance of evidence links nutritional deficiencies to cognitive deterioration. Elderly individuals with inadequate dietary intake of certain nutrients score lower than average on test of cognitive function., Historically, antioxidants and the B vitamins have been evaluated for neuroprotective effects. Enter now, Vitamin D, which has been shown to have an important role in cognitive preservation!

Vitamin D haas been long known for its important role in regulating body levels of calcium and phosphorus and for bone mineralization. Its role in tissue growth and metabolism is well established as its protective effect against heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. The presence of Vitamin D receptors in the brain implicates a role for this hormone in cognitive function and prevention of dementia.

Dementia is the progressive decline in cognitive function due to the presence of disease or damage in the brain. The pathology of dementia is complex, but it does involve our old friends including oxidation, inflammation, disease induced neurotoxicity and genetic vulnerability. Sound familiar? Most chronic diseases of aging exhibit similar pathology. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of age related dementia affecting approximately 50% of adults 85 years of age and older.

Vitamin D helps prevent cognitive deterioration and decline, and dementia. It does this through protecting blood vessels in the brain, preserving neurons or neve pathways and protecting against oxidation and inflammation. Vitamin D is a major calcium regulatory steroid hormone and modulates serum calcium concentrations in the neurons of the brain, protecting them from the damage of excess calcium entry which results in memory loss and and loss of cognitive function. Vitamin D also regulates blood pressure and heart rate and protects against cardiovascular disease, which may also indirectly affect vascular induced dementia.

So I ask the question again: Have you had your Vitamin D today? It is a very simple solution to a very complex problem. Be proactive! And thanks for reading…

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