Vitamin D can be a tricky thing these days. With most doctors recommending that we limit our time in the sun, and slather on sunscreen when we are in the sun, it’s hard to figure out how to get vitamin D without getting skin cancer. Vitamin D is a vital component of health—warding off diseases such as osteoporosis, cancer, cardiovascular disease and even depression.
New research now shows that low levels of vitamin D may also increase your Alzheimer’s risk. Older adults with low levels of vitamin D were shown to have twice the risk for Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia compared to those who have sufficient levels of vitamin D.
Researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School in England collected blood samples and psychological tests from healthy men and women in the U.S. over the course of 7 years. Between 1992 and 1999, the researchers studied over 1600 people over the age of 65 and found that those with low levels of Vitamin D were about 1.7 times more likely to develop dementia than those with normal levels of the vitamin. Those who tested for severely low levels of vitamin D, were found to be 2.2 times more likely than those with normal levels to develop dementia.
"Clinical trials are now urgently needed in this area," said David Llewellyn, a senior research fellow in clinical epidemiology at the University of Exeter Medical School.
While there have been other studies regarding a connection between vitamin D and dementia, this study, which was published in the August issue of Neurology, is the largest study yet to find a correlation.
How to Get More Vitamin D
Both dietary changes and increasing sun exposure can help boost your vitamin D intake. Dietary sources of vitamin D include fatty fish (like salmon), milk, eggs, cheese and leafy green vegetables (like spinach).
Choosing to increase your vitamin D through sun exposure can be tricky. According to Dr. Sebastian Junger’s blog, a “strategy that may work for some people is spending 20-30 minutes in the sun before 10am and after 4pm without sunscreen. This is the time the UV rays are less. Twenty-thirty minutes of exposure to your full body can produce as much as 10,000 IU of vitamin D daily.”
If it’s still difficult for you to raise your levels of vitamin D through diet or sun exposure, you can also take a vitamin D supplement to help keep your levels in the normal range. Not only will this help you live a healthier life, it might keep dementia at bay as well.