Anxious Older Woman - Detail - ©

Vitamin D Supplements May Prevent Dementia

A new observational, data-mining-based study suggests vitamin D supplements may prevent dementia. Even dreaded Alzheimer’s. That might be some of the best news dementia-prone family ‘dynasties’ could receive at a time when dementia is increasing across the population…

Elderly People Drinking - © study may enable doctors to determine who is likely to develop
dementia before it strikes – and to intervene with prevention
methods rather than having to treat it after it shows up.

Researchers would love to uncover associations between single causal factors and other diseases with wide-ranging manifestations – like the cardio-pulmonary ‘family’. But simply proving that such familiar connections are possible is a great leap forward in understanding then, ultimately, treating or even curing them.

What they did

Researchers at the University of Calgary looked at more than 12,000 participants in the the US National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center, who had a mean age of 71 and were dementia-free when they signed up. Of the group, 37 percent (4,637) took vitamin D supplements.

What they found

According to an abstract of the study results, the team found that, “taking vitamin D was associated with living dementia-free for longer, and they also found 40 percent fewer dementia diagnoses in the group who took supplements.”

Professor Zahinoor Ismail of the University of Calgary and University of Exeter (UK), who led the research, said: “We know that vitamin D has some effects in the brain that could have implications for reducing dementia, however so far, research has yielded conflicting results. Our findings give key insights into groups who might be specifically targeted for vitamin D supplementation. Overall, we found evidence to suggest that earlier supplementation might be particularly beneficial, before the onset of cognitive decline.”

The takeaway

Previous studies have shown that vitamin D is effective in helping remove amyloid plaques from the brain, along with a protein called tau. Both are substances associated with development of alzheimer’s and other dementias. But study report co-author Dr Byron Creese, at the University of Exeter, points out that the new study extends our knowledge to show that taking vitamin D before dimentias show up is also effective in helping prevent them.

My take

I marvel at the secrets rigorous scientific studies have revealed about the beneficial effects of vitamin D. This latest study demonstrates how cause and effect relationships can be identified, then studied to reveal how those relationships work.

If you want a scientifically appropriate metaphor to describe the technique, consider the microscope. Ismail’s and Creese’s modus operandi is directly comparable to turning the focus wheel and using higher and higher-magnification lenses on a microscope to literally enable researchers to pinpoint the singular microbes or chemicals responsible for infectious or invasive diseases and conditions.

The trick seems to be to first firmly establish that there is a relationship, then to look closer to determine how it works.

A glimmer of hope…

More importantly, it suggests a valid, viable means of treating dementia before it even shows up in any diagnosis. And that means hope for me, and members of other families in which dementia ‘runs’, if it proves that the condition can be controlled and suppressed before it strikes.

~ Maggie J.