Vitamin D and Cognitive Decline: What’s the Relationship?

The role of vit­a­min D in the brain appeared evi­dent in the 1980s when researchers found key pro­teins in the brain involved in vit­a­min D metab­o­lism. A lot of clin­i­cal evi­dence has accu­mu­lat­ed since then sug­gest­ing that low vit­a­min D lev­els may poten­tial­ly result in cog­ni­tive decline. Nonethe­less the results are mixed and not all pre­vi­ous stud­ies have show that low lev­els of vit­a­min D are indeed asso­ci­at­ed with cog­ni­tive decline or dementia.

A 2010 study eval­u­at­ed this ques­tion for the first time by fol­low­ing the same indi­vid­u­als over the years, instead of com­par­ing peo­ple with nor­mal lev­els and peo­ple with low-lev­els of vit­a­min D. This study fol­lowed 858 adults 65 years and old­er over 6‑years. Results showed an increased risk of cog­ni­tive decline in patients with vit­a­min D deficiency.

Com­ments: An asso­ci­a­tion between two things (here vit­a­min D lev­els and cog­ni­tive decline) does not nec­es­sar­i­ly means that one caus­es the oth­er. Poten­tial con­found­ing fac­tors may explain the asso­ci­a­tion. For instance vit­a­min D defi­cien­cy has also been asso­ci­at­ed with car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, which is known to be a risk fac­tor for demen­tia. How­ev­er this recent study addressed such con­found­ing fac­tors and found that the rela­tion between vit­a­min D defi­cien­cy and cog­ni­tive decline was maintained.

One ques­tion left to answer is whether vit­a­min D defi­cien­cy is part of the ear­ly man­i­fes­ta­tions of cog­ni­tive decline or whether it is risk fac­tor that can be manip­u­lat­ed and act­ed upon. Whether tak­ing vit­a­min D may help fight against cog­ni­tive decline is still unclear. In fact most of the evi­dence shows lack of ben­e­fits from a wide vari­ety of typ­i­cal sup­ple­ments, from gingko to vitamins.

Relat­ed arti­cles on the rela­tion­ship between vit­a­mins and oth­er sup­ple­ments and cog­ni­tive decline and/or dementia:


  1. Henry Lahore on February 1, 2011 at 8:14

    Many stud­ies have proven the rela­tion­ship between low vit­a­min D and cog­ni­tive decline.
    Has overviews of 6 stud­ies on Vit­a­min D and cog­ni­tive Decline and about 100 stud­ies on vit­a­min D and seniors

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

Top Articles on Brain Health and Neuroplasticity

Top 10 Brain Teasers and Illusions


Subscribe to our e-newsletter

* indicates required

Got the book?