Vitamin D Critical for Women’s Cognitive Health
A staggering amount research has come out over the years showing that vitamin D has so many important roles in addition to keeping your bones strong. Studies indicate that this nutrient helps reduce the risk of various cancers,[1,2] decreases high blood pressure, and helps prevent cardiovascular disease  and even multiple sclerosis. And now, studies have tied vitamin D to cognitive health, particularly in women.
In one study of 6,256 older women published in the Journal of Gerontology, researchers found that the women with very low levels of vitamin D (<10 ng/mL) had significantly greater risk of cognitive impairment compared to those women who had higher levels (>30 ng/ml).
In a second similar study, researchers followed 498 women who were not taking vitamin D supplements. They divided them up into three groups according to the onset of cognitive decline—no dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
The researchers found that the women who developed Alzheimer’s had lower baseline vitamin D than those who did not have dementias or those who developed other types of dementia. Those women who were in the highest quintile of dietary vitamin D intake had the lowest risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to the other four quintiles. They concluded that women who had a higher dietary vitamin D intake had a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Delicious Ways to Get Your D
Considering the seemingly countless health benefits associated with vitamin D, it’s in everyone’s best interest—man, woman, young and old—to boost intake of this essential nutrient.
Many nutritious foods naturally contain high levels of vitamin D. The foods at the top of the list include various seafood (tuna, mackerel, sardines, salmon, shrimp, oysters and herring), egg yolks, and shitake mushrooms. An even greater list of foods fortified with vitamin D exists. The most common include milk, cereals and orange juice.
Finally, let’s not forget the easiest (and cheapest) source of vitamin D—the sun. When light from the sun’s ultraviolet rays hits your skin, it stimulates production of vitamin D in your body. A mere 20-30 minutes of sun exposure (without sunscreen) is all you need to get this process going. Of course, if you live in a cloudy or cold climate, you may not be able to get this daily amount of sun, so you should definitely consider supplementing or eating D-rich foods, or both.
If you think you might have a deficiency in vitamin D, have your blood serum levels tested. It’s an easy test that’s readily available nowadays. Depending on your results, discuss with your physician the amount of vitamin D you should be taking on a daily basis to get your blood levels within a healthy range.
1. Bilinski K and Bovages J. Association between 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration and breast cancer risk in an Australiam population: an observational case-control study. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2012 Dec 14. [Epub ahead of print]
2. Stubbins RE, et al. Using components of the vitamin D pathway to prevent and treat colon cancer. Nutr Rev. 2012 Dec;70(12):721-9.
3. Zhao G, et al. Independent associations of serum concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D and parathyroid hormone with blood pressure among US adults. J Hypertens. 2010 Sep;28(9):1821-8.
4. Lutsey PL and Michos ED. Vitamin D, calcium, and atherosclerotic risk: evidence from serum levels and supplementation studies. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2013 Jan;15(1):293.
5. Salzer J, et al. Vitamin D as a protective factor in multiple sclerosis. Neurology. 2012 Nov 20;79(21):2140-5.
6. Slinin Y, et al. Association between serum 25(OH) vitamin D and the risk of cognitive decline in older women. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2012 Oct;67(10):1092-8.
7. Annweiler C, et al. Higher vitamin D dietary intake is associated with lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease: A 7-year follow-up. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2012 Nov;67(11):1205-11.
Larissa Long has worked in the health care communications field for more than 13 years. She co-authored a self-care book titled Taking Care, has written countless tip sheets and e-letters on health topics, and contributed several articles to Natural Solutions magazine. She also served as managing editor of three alternative health and lifestyle newsletters — Dr. Susan Lark’s Women’s Wellness Today, Dr. David Williams’ Alternatives, and Janet Luhrs’ Simple Living.
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