If you want strong bones, vitamin D (and calcium) is known to be rather beneficial, but according to new evidence, the supplement might also have an active role in protecting the brain against cognitive decline.

Published in the journal JAMA Neurology, a recent study conducted in partnership by the University of California and the Rutgers University has discovered that older adults with insufficient levels of vitamin D also experienced cognitive function decline.

Senior study author Joshua W. Miller, PhD, a professor teaching nutrition at the Rutgers School of Environmental & Biological Sciences, said the connection between vitamin D insufficiency or deficiency and an accelerated deterioration of cognitive function could be observed in ethnically diverse adults, including Hispanic and African American participants.

Even though it would only be natural that the reverse applies, the research team said it is still to be determined whether vitamin D supplements do indeed slow cognitive decline. But this nutrient can also be found in natural forms, such as fish.

Some of the most vital functions of the body are in need of vitamin D – muscles need it to perform movement, the immune systems needs it to ward off viruses, and the nerves need it to provide communication between the brain and the body.

One of the most efficient ways to increase one’s levels of vitamin D is to get sunlight exposure. This is how the great majority of people have at least half of their vitamin D needs covered, according to reports of the National Institutes of Health.

At the same time, Dr. Miller noticed that vitamin D levels influenced the cells in the brain. Nearly 400 patients were monitored by his team over the span of 8 years; white women with an average age of 75 were prevalent among participants.

The cognitive levels of roughly half of them were normal at the beginning of the study, 33 percent suffered from mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and 17 percent had dementia. While dementia is the general term used for severe mental ability decline, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form.

Out of the total number of patients, 26 percent were diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency, while an additional 35 percent did not have sufficient levels without being deficient. Hispanic and African-American patients presented lower vitamin D levels than white participants, on average.

Patients with adequate levels of vitamin D had less cognitive problems during the follow-up period than those who had vitamin D insufficiency or deficiency. Problems ranged from failure to access episodic memory and executive function performance.
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