Getting Ample Vitamin D Reduces Your Dementia Risk By 32% — Yes, Really!
Approximately 24 million people1 have dementia worldwide, and that number is growing. In fact, cases are expected to increase globally by 3 million this year alone.
Researchers are working hard to figure out the best way to reduce these climbing numbers and have identified one promising—and shockingly simple—solution: increasing your vitamin D intake.
The connection between vitamin D & dementia.
According to a 2019 BMC Neurology meta-analysis, vitamin D deficiency (VDD) increases the risk of dementia by one-third (32%) and severe deficiency [defined as at or below 10 ng/ml 25(OH)D serum levels] increases dementia risk by nearly 50%.
So, why is VDD intrinsically linked to neurodegenerative diseases? Researchers hypothesize they're connected in the following ways.
Calcium is fundamental to memory formation, and calcium dysregulation has been tied to brain aging and dementia. Vitamin D is a known regulator of calcium homeostasis (hello, bone health benefits). As such, inefficient utilization of vitamin D in the brain and/or VDD may contribute to calcium homeostasis disruption2 and cause neurons to age, per a 2018 Hormones review.
When there is an excess of the neurotransmitter glutamate, it causes a phenomenon called glutamate neurotoxicity that ultimately leads to the death of neurons. According to a 2018 study published by the Journal of the Neurobiological Studies, vitamin D helps exert antioxidant actions in the brain, protecting it from oxidative stress and glutamate neurotoxicity.
Considering the growing global rate of dementia and the fact that 29% of U.S. adults3 are deficient in vitamin D, achieving vitamin D sufficiency should be top priority when developing a proactive care plan for maintaining healthy cognitive function with age. The problem? This can be easier said than done.
How to achieve & maintain healthy vitamin D levels.
You see, increasing your vitamin D intake is notoriously difficult through food and sunshine. Thus, daily supplementation remains the most effective method for reaching and sustaining healthy vitamin D status.
However, not all vitamin D supplements are created equal—leading health experts recommend 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 every day paired with healthy fat to achieve truly optimal vitamin D levels (i.e., 50 ng/ml or higher). If you're looking for a high-quality product that meets these standards, consider one of mindbodygreen's recommendations found in this comprehensive guide of top vitamin D supplements.
Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk for dementia, but achieving healthy vitamin D status can help prevent cognitive decline down the road.
If you're concerned about your brain health and/or vitamin D levels, increase your vitamin D intake. Adding a high-quality vitamin D supplement to your daily routine can help you reach—and sustain—vitamin D sufficiency.
Morgan Chamberlain is a supplement editor at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science degree in magazine journalism and a minor in nutrition. Chamberlain believes in taking small steps to improve your well-being—whether that means eating more plant-based foods, checking in with a therapist weekly, or spending quality time with your closest friends. When she isn’t typing away furiously at her keyboard, you can find her cooking in the kitchen, hanging outside, or doing a vinyasa flow.