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Enough Vitamin D might Keep Elders Mentally Agile

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Scientists say sufficient vitamin D levels might keep elders mentally flexible. Vitamin D levels were studied among 1000 study participants receiving home care. Scientists found that people between 65 and 99 years of age were more mentally agile compared to those with less vitamin D.

The newest study contributes to a growing body of evidence that vitamin D is important to preserve memory. Identifying lifestyle interventions that improve public heath, are cost effective and promote independent living are important to consumers. Dementia in the form of Alzheimer's disease affects approximately 47 percent of elders in the United States.

Scientists chose individuals receiving home care for the vitamin D study because they are at higher risk for lack of the vitamin from decreased sun exposure.

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When the researchers grouped elders into vitamin D level categories that included deficient, insufficient or sufficient, they found that only 35 percent of elders studied had adequate vitamin D levels. Cognitive function scores were higher compared to elders with sufficient and insufficient levels.

Metabolic pathways for vitamin D have been found in the brain, leading scientists to explore the role of vitamin D and memory loss. Mental function among elders with sufficient vitamin D was especially higher in the area of "executive performance" that includes cognitive flexibility, perceptual complexity, and reasoning, found in the study. Vitamin D may be more important than previously recognized for keeping mental function intact among elders.

Agricultural Research Service