Vitamin D deficiency linked to increased risk of dementia, genetic study finds

  • Vitamin D deficiency could increase the risk of dementia, according to a new genetic study.
  • The study analyzed genetic information from nearly 300,000 participants from the UK.

People deficient in vitamin D may be at higher risk of dementia, according to a new study.

Australian researchers, with funding from the country’s government, used genetic information from nearly 300,000 UK Biobank participants to better understand the link between low vitamin D levels and dementia.

Researchers found that low vitamin D levels were associated with an increased risk of dementia and stroke, and genetic analysis showed a causal link between the two. The risk of dementia was highest in people who were deficient in the vitamin.

A mathematical analysis of the data suggested that 17% of dementia cases in the sample could be prevented by bringing low levels of vitamin D down to a healthy amount.

“Our study is the first to examine the effect of very low levels of vitamin D on the risk of dementia and stroke, using robust genetic analyzes among a large population,” said Elina Hyppönen, researcher in the study and professor at the University of South Australia, said in a statement.

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus from food, two minerals essential for strong bones. People who lack vitamin D are at greater risk of osteoporosis, a disease that causes weak and brittle bones.

Vitamin D has well-studied benefits for bones and the immune system, and new to research is studying whether the nutrient could reduce the risk of cancer and depression.

The study is limited because it did not investigate the impact of vitamin D in participants in a placebo-controlled clinical trial, which is considered the “gold standard” of research design.

“Our findings have important implications for dementia risk,” Hyppönen said in the release. “In this UK population, we observed that up to 17% of dementia cases could have been prevented by raising vitamin D levels to within a normal range.”

People generally get vitamin D from the sun, but foods like oily fish and beef liver contain high levels of vitamin D. Most adults consume about 600 international units of vitamin D per day.

Nutrition experts previously told Insider to consult a doctor before starting vitamin D supplementsas taking too much can lead to constipation, nausea, vomiting, confusion and muscle cramps.

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