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Your Memory and Vitamin D

If you needed one more reason to make sure your vitamin D levels are adequate, Duke-NUS Medical School and Duke University can give it to you. Researchers at these institutions recently conducted a study of elderly Chinese people that linked low vitamin D levels to a condition that we’re all hoping to avoid as we age.

You may already know that vitamin D helps your bones and muscles stay strong and plays a role in everything from cancer to cardiovascular disease prevention. But this study helped confirm that vitamin D does even more than that. As the first large-scale prospective study in Asia of its kind, this project evaluated data from over 1,202 Chinese participants who were at least 60 years old and took part in the Chinese Longitudinal Health Longevity Survey.

The researchers measured the participants’ baseline vitamin D levels at the beginning of the study. Then, over the course of two years, they assessed the cognitive abilities of the participants. They found some startling correlations. Those who had low vitamin D levels when the study began had double the risk of demonstrating significant cognitive decline or cognitive impairment over the course of the study. These results extended to both genders and did not vary as the participants grew older.

These results help demonstrate just how important vitamin D is to protecting our neurons and helping us avoid neurodegenerative diseases. I recommend that you get your vitamin D levels checked regularly to ensure they’re high enough. I’d like you to be in the 50–70 ng/ml range so that you have enough vitamin D to go around to all the systems in your body that need it. To hit this number, I typically recommend that you start off taking 5,000 IU of vitamin D a day, and increase the dose from there until you get into the optimal range.

By Frank Shallenberger, MD