Your Brain on Vitamin D

brain.jpgOur collective crush on Vitamin D shows no sign of tapering off.  Researchers just published new results from a 6-year study showing that seniors with low vitamin D levels are 60% more likely to suffer from substantial cognitive decline than those with adequate levels of the nutrients, raising “important new possibilities for treatment and prevention.” (Archives of Internal Medicine.)

Vitamin D supplementation is presumably what they’re talking about. (Is there anyone left out there that’s NOT taking vitamin D?)

But brain aging seems to be a very difficult nut to crack.  One by one, other “important new possibilities for treatment and prevention” of cognitive decline have failed to pan out:  Fish oil, crossword puzzles, exercise, ginkgo biloba…despite high hopes, none turned out to make a significant difference.

Will vitamin D be the breakthrough we’ve all been hoping for?

Could raising low blood levels with supplements do the trick or is there something about the lifestyle of people with higher vitamin D levels that’s helping them stay healthier? Maybe higher vitamin D levels indicate that they spend more time outdoors; perhaps it’s a marker for people who are more active? Or simply healthier?

We’re all so enamored of vitamin D right now, it’s hard to be objective. But, as Tim Byers points out in an editorial for the American Journal of Epidemiology, we’ve been similarly enthralled (and ultimately disillusioned) with other nutrients in the past.  (Anticancer Vitamins du Jour–The ABCED’s So Far.)

I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer. For all of our sakes, I hope that vitamin D turns out to be the superstar that we hope it is. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re ultimately led back to the same conclusion: There’s just no way to put a healthy lifestyle, diet, and environment (plus good genes) into a pill.

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