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Vitamin D deficiency and cognitive decline

Portfolio politics

Louise Newson

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

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vitamin D_shutterstock_273287183.jpgOver the past few years there has been a huge amount of research into vitamin D deficiency. Although we are all aware of the current recommendations regarding vitamin D, the vast majority of children under the age of 5 that I know (either as patients or as friends’ children) are not taking any vitamin D.

We all know that having low vitamin D levels is associated with osteomalacia and rickets. It is also associated with various respiratory diseases and also some types of cancer. 

An interesting study* recently published in JAMA Neurology has shown that a low vitamin D concentration is associated with a more rapid decline in cognitive function among older adults. 

Although the majority of people in this study actually had low levels of vitamin D, the mean vitamin D concentration was significantly lower in those with dementia than in those with mild cognitive impairment and those who were cognitively normal.

In addition, those people who were vitamin D deficient or vitamin D insufficient had greater rates of cognitive decline compared to those with normal vitamin D levels.

However, what this study did not answer (which is really the most important question) is: does vitamin D supplementation actually slows cognitive decline?

* Joshua W. Miller, et al. Vitamin D Status and Rates of Cognitive Decline in a Multiethnic Cohort of Older Adults. JAMA Neurol. Published online 14 September 2015. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2015.2115

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Louise Newson

Louise is a part-time GP in Solihull, as well as a writer for numerous medical publications, including She is an Editor and Reviewer for e-learning courses for the RCGP. She is an Editor for Geriatric Medicine journal and the British Journal of Family Medicine. Louise has contributed to various healthcare articles in many different newspapers and magazines and is the spokesperson for The Information Standard. She has also done television and radio work. Louise is a medical consultant for Maverick TV and has participated regularly in ‘Embarrassing Bodies Live from the Clinic’. Louise has three young children and is married to a consultant urological surgeon. Although her spare time is limited she enjoys practising ashtanga yoga regularly and loves road cycling – she has raised over £2K for a local charity, Molly Olly Wishes by competing in a 120km cycle ride!

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