A Neurologist's Top Tip For Preventing Alzheimer's? Healthy Vitamin D Levels
These prospects can be downright terrifying, but there are steps you can take today to support your brain health in days to come.
According to neurologist Dale Bredesen, M.D., author of the New York Times bestselling book The End of Alzheimer's, one surprising factor has a serious impact on your risk for developing Alzheimer's: your vitamin D status.
Vitamin D levels and Alzheimer's disease
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that's required for a plethora of vital functions throughout the body, including cognitive health and neuroprotection. And like Alzheimer's, vitamin D deficiency is shockingly prevalent in the U.S. A whopping 29% of adults2 are deficient in vitamin D, and another 41% are insufficient in the critical nutrient.
The link between vitamin D and cognitive function
In fact, in a recent episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, Bredesen explains that dangerously low levels of vitamin D [i.e., 25(OH)D serum test results at or below 20 ng/ml—the clinical cutoff for vitamin D deficiency] is one of the main contributing factors of cognitive decline he sees in his patients.
"It is surprisingly common to see people come in with cognitive decline and their vitamin D level is 19 or 20 [ng/ml]," he shares.
How did these individuals become vitamin D deficient in the first place? According to Bredesen, it's a combination of lifestyle habits and nutritional choices: "They're living indoors, they're not getting out enough, they're not taking vitamin D, or they're not absorbing the vitamin D they are taking."
So, we're left with supplementation. But as Bredesen stated, some people are taking vitamin D supplements and seeing no improvement to their D levels—or their cognitive function.
What to look for in a vitamin D supplement
Here are the three biggest challenges in getting enough vitamin D from supplementation:
Because it's a fat-soluble vitamin, taking your vitamin D alongside a dietary fat is absolutely critical to aid absorption and enhance bioavailability. (Bonus points if the healthy fat is built right into your supplement!)
Need some help finding a product that fits the bill? Check out our roundup of the best vitamin D supplements.
While scientists still aren't 100% sure what causes Alzheimer's or dementia, neurologists have found that maintaining healthy vitamin D levels can help prevent cognitive decline.
An easy way to help maintain cognitive function later in life? Take an effective vitamin D3 supplement—your future self will thank you for supporting your brain health and longevity.
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.