Vitamin D Isn’t the Effective Dementia-Fighting Tactic Scientists Thought It Was

Millions of people live with some form of dementia in the United States alone. Alzheimer’s disease is still one of the top 10 causes of death across the nation.

Those who have witnessed loved ones go through the heartbreaking, degenerative stages of the disease likely fear it more than death itself. We take our memories for granted so often that it’s terrifying to imagine what it would be like to forget the names and faces of our kids, our partners, and our close friends.

That’s why everyone seems to be on a constant lookout for anything and everything they can do to protect themselves from such a ruthless brain disorder still without a known cure.

Up until recently, many believed vitamin D could be the answer we’ve all been looking for. Looking at the science behind the belief, it’s no wonder we’ve clung to false hope for so long.

Dementia prevention

Dementia prevention | iStock.com/wildpixel

Some time ago, studies started producing results that showed people with neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s had lower vitamin D levels than healthy individuals. A reasonable hypothesis eventually formed and spread: Getting more vitamin D must protect the brain against these conditions!

Like so many other health hypotheses, this one turned out to be wrong.

But that’s why scientists do research. And repeat that research. And gather together decades’ worth of studies to analyze and compare their results — a process called systematic reviews.

In this case, researchers analyzed a total of 70 studies on this topic. That’s how they discovered that taking in more vitamin D isn’t actually an effective way to prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. In some cases, it could even prove harmful.

Vitamin D toxicity, though rare, can cause serious health problems. It usually happens when people consume extremely high doses of vitamin D supplements, which can cause digestive issues, kidney problems, and more.

Dietary supplements

Dietary supplements | iStock.com/monticelllo

As often happens, scientists accidentally noticed something in their analysis that could merit further study. Sunlight, and other forms of UV light, could benefit people with diseases like multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease in a completely different way unrelated to vitamin D.

But don’t take that to mean you should immediately start spending more time in the sun to prevent dementia, especially if you aren’t prepared to do so safely. It could be years before we have more evidence supporting this idea.

Even though vitamin D might not be the dementia-fighting tactic you were counting on, there’s still hope. It’s not too late to shift your habits and decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

  • Don’t drink more than the recommended weekly average.
  • Stay in touch with family and friends.
  • Keep up with a healthy diet and exercise routine.
  • Eat more fruit and fewer added sugars.
  • Get plenty of sleep — but don’t be a couch potato!

You can also learn about more ways to decrease your dementia risk no matter your age.

Vitamin D supplements and other forms of the nutrient aren’t a cure-all. Some people might largely benefit from taking in more if they need it, but many experts speculate that most of us don’t. Instead, if you’re really concerned about dementia, focus on the methods shown to be more effective. It’s likely they’ll improve your health in more ways than one.

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