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Here’s some bright news about the sunshine vitamin: a French study suggests getting more vitamin D can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This study focused on vitamin D from food and not from exposure to sunlight nor use of supplementation.
The vast amount of research regarding vitamin D deficiency and vitamin D intake has uncovered significant relationships between this nutrient and health issues ranging from osteoporosis to cancer, depression, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis. Studies have also shown vitamin D to play a role in benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostatitis, and an uncertain part in prostate cancer risk.
The new research involved 498 elderly women (average age, 79.8 years) who did not take vitamin D supplements. Investigators evaluated the women’s dietary intake of vitamin D and followed them for seven years.
At the end of the follow-up period, the authors reported that women with the lower intake of vitamin D (50 micrograms per week) had a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared with women who had a higher intake (59 micrograms per week) of vitamin D. The highest average intake of vitamin D from the diet was associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The optimal way to get adequate amounts of vitamin D is through exposure to sunlight, approximately 15 to 20 minutes three to four times per week. Vitamin D supplements can help individuals reach a healthy blood level of vitamin D, which according to the Vitamin D Council is between 50 and 80 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL).
Few foods are good sources of vitamin D unless they have been enriched with the nutrient, as are some cereals and dairy products. However, foods naturally rich in vitamin D include certain fish, such as tuna, herring, salmon, halibut, sardines, and catfish, among others. In fact, the authors of the Alzheimer’s study noted that “There is reasonably good evidence that eating fish reduces the risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s.”
Annweiler C et al. Higher vitamin D dietary intake is associated with lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease: a 7-year follow-up. Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 2012 Nov; 67(11): 1205-11