Elderly people showing signs of poor memory, and decline in learning and thinking abilities, may benefit from going outside and being exposed to the sun regularly to get their daily dose of Vitamin D. A study, headed by Dr. David Llewellyn, showed an association between low levels of Vitamin D in the blood and mental impairment in older people. The study, which was published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, was the first to explore such a relationship.
The research involved 858 Italian participants, 65 years old and older. The researchers found that those with severe Vitamin D deficiency were 60% more likely to experience substantial cognitive decline when compared to the participants with sufficient Vitamin D levels in the blood. Relatedly, several studies in the past have also suggested positive improvement in the attention span of elderly individuals who were given Vitamin D supplementation.
It is estimated that a high percentage of older people suffer from Vitamin D deficiency. This may be caused by a primarily indoor lifestyle, as well as the aging process which makes the skin less effective in producing Vitamin D in response to sunlight. Deficiency is often associated with fractures, depression, osteoporosis, chronic fatigue and, even death.
Beyond its potential role in maintaining cognitive abilities, Vitamin D is important in the retention of bone strength as it functions in the absorption of phosphorous and calcium in the body–two essential bone-building minerals. Aside from this, it is also said to be beneficial in preventing the development of some cancers and in fighting against infection with tuberculosis.
From their findings, the researchers speculate that supplementation with Vitamin D in the elderly may prove to be a promising intervention in the prevention of dementia. This is particularly because Vitamin D supplements are safe and cheap, and have already shown positive benefits in other areas, including in decreasing risks of fractures. If future studies can confirm this study”s observed association between Vitamin D and cognitive decline, Vitamin D supplementation may represent a new option in the treatment and prevention of mental decline in the elderly population.