Over the next 50 years, it's expected that Alzheimer’s disease and dementia will strengthen their grip on older adults worldwide. Researchers are studying vitamin D to see if it can slow the onset of dementia
Vitamin D comes from the sun and from some foods like nuts, lentils and fatty fish.
Researchers have found that low levels of vitamin D could be related to dementia and Alzheimer's disease, one of the most common forms of dementia. Alzheimer's can be exhausting for caregivers and frightening to those who have it.
"The worse thing that I found was I was getting lost in the car, not just forgetting where I was going - I wouldn't know where I was," said dementia sufferer, Chris Roberts.
The World Health Organization estimates that more than 47 million people suffer from dementia, with about 60 percent of them in low- and middle-income countries - countries with the least ability to cope.
U.S. researchers studied older adults and measured both their vitamin D levels and their cognitive ability: that is, the ability to remember things and to process thoughts.
“Some of the subjects had outright dementia, some had mild cognitive impairment and some had what we would call normal cognitive functioning,” said Dr. Joshua Miller of Rutgers University.
The researchers found that about 60 percent of the group was low in vitamin D.
“Those who had dementia also had lower vitamin D status than those who had mild cognitive impairment or who had normal cognitive functioning,” Miller said.
Those low in vitamin D showed more short-term memory loss, as well as less ability to organize thoughts, prioritize tasks and make decisions.
“They were declining about two-and-a-half times faster than those who had adequate vitamin D,” Miller said.
While this study shows that vitamin D seems to play a role in slowing the onset of dementia, more studies are needed to see if vitamin D supplements can help slow this decline.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.