This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
As newly diagnosed cases of dementia and cognitive decline continue to grow at a staggering rate in the U.S. and western cultures, a growing body of evidence is amassing to support the fact that this is not a normal part of aging, and progression and development of this devastating condition can be avoided by engaging in healthy lifestyle practices and ensuring a daily intake of essential nutrients in optimal dosages, especially with respect to vitamin D.
Over the past decade, volumes of newly minted research studies have clearly demonstrated the critical need for vitamin D saturation among the trillions of cells that work in concert to achieve vibrant health and prevent disease.
Extensive work from prior scientific and nutritional studies have shown how individuals who maintain the highest levels of vitamin D as measured by common blood testing dramatically lower their risk of developing many potentially fatal forms of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. Now, researchers at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School have found an association between low vitamin D levels and cognitive impairment in an elderly cohort of men and women in China with an average age of 85 years.
Publishing in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that vitamin D appears to boost the machinery that helps recycle and repackage signaling chemicals to help neurons communicate with one another in a part of the brain that is central to memory and learning. Lead study author, Dr. Nada Porter noted of supplementation with the sunshine vitamin that “This process is like restocking shelves in grocery stores.”
The scientists noted that vitamin D helped enable neurons to better receive and process the electrical and chemical signals that help to store and retrieve memory, a process that becomes increasingly disabled with many forms of dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease. A critical finding of the study was that after adjusting for various factors such as age, gender, chronic conditions, smoking and drinking habits, those with decreased vitamin D levels were associated with almost twice as much risk of cognitive impairment compared to those with higher levels.
Most people understand that that we naturally make vitamin D with skin exposure to the ultraviolet rays from the sun. Unfortunately with the excessive use of sunscreen products and limited time spent in direct contact with the sun, very few people actually produce sufficient vitamin D to raise blood saturation levels. Furthermore, researchers have found that as we age, our natural ability to properly convert ultraviolet sun energy to vitamin D is dramatically diminished by as much as 50 percent by age 50.
Scientists conducting this study concluded, “The point is that as a population ages, they’re more likely to be vitamin D deficient and that’s associated with health-related consequences. There has to be a move on what needs to be done about it.” Daily supplementation with vitamin D (most people require 5,000 to 10,000 IU per day) may be necessary depending on age, sun exposure, weight and ethnicity to achieve an optimal blood saturation level and help avert the devastating course of many chronic conditions, including memory loss and cognitive decline.