A recent study has found a new potential risk factor for Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. The study, conducted by leading neurologists and published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology, posits that patients with a deficiency in vitamin D have a significantly higher risk of dementia, particularly Alzheimer's. Discovering this link could have a significant impact on how we fight to combat this disease.
Scientists studied 1,658 aging men and women, measuring the blood levels of vitamin D in each participant. Each subject showed no signs of dementia prior to his or her preliminary tests, and the study controlled for several common risk factors, including body mass index, age, diabetes, smoking, education, alcohol use, and hypertension. The participants then had a follow-up at least five years later. In that time, 171 of the test subjects had developed some form of dementia. Each person had their blood tested again, and their vitamin D levels were compared. The study found that those with vitamin D levels of fewer than 50 nanomoles per liter had a dramatically higher risk of dementia. These patients had a 53 percent higher risk of dementia and a 69 percent increase in the risk for Alzheimer's. As levels dipped, the risk doubled. Through these results, the National Institute of Health was able to conclude that any vitamin D level below 50 nanomoles per liter is simply not good enough.
While these results are certainly exciting and could lead to more discoveries relating to dementia and Alzheimer's, neurologists would advise caution in celebrating too much. One of the authors of the study noted that these results are merely observational, and much more research must be conducted in order to truly understand the connection and draw any meaningful conclusions.
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