Vitamin D and Alzheimer’s

April 3, 2014 | By Lorenzo Mejia

Alzheimer’s disease is possibly the most serious medical condition of our time and Vitamin D may help prevent Alzheimer’s.   Alzheimer’s is a leading cause of death and, sadly, we have no effective medications.  It is ironic in an area like our home town of Chapel Hill, NC, that despite the wealth of medical resource available, it’s not about the cure, it’s about the care.

Even if a medical solution were to exist, prevention is always the best approach.  New research has shown that Vitamin D may play an important role in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease was identified in the early 1900s by the German physician Alois Alzheimer.  He examined the brains, port-mortem, of people who exhibited dementia-like symptoms. At that time, Alzheimer’s quite rare.  One of the key reasons was that people did not live long enough to exhibit the symptoms.

The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease has been steadily increasing. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can include increasing confusion, irritability, changes in mood, difficulty with communication as well as significant memory loss.

There was no known therapy for Alzheimer’s disease in 1906 and still today, therapeutic options are limited.  Only two types of drugs (cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine) have been shown to be effective in slowing the progress of this disease. However, their efficacy is limited and they do little to change the ultimate outcome.

Although there are many theories as to the cause of Alzheimer’s disease, the precipitating event is still undefined.  However, we do know that lifestyle and dietary habits play an important role in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as well as its progression. Those with multiple medical problems tend to be at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s.  The existence of other medical problems also are correlated with greater risk of rapid progression.

Lifestyle choices associated with good health are also associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and a slower progression. One of these lifestyle choices may be the inclusion of vitamin D in our diets.

Vitamin D is used by every cell in the body.  Brain cells, especially those involved in Alzheimer’s disease, express a large number of vitamin D receptor proteins.  Vitamin D has been shown to reduce inflammation in the brain — an important feature of Alzheimer’s. It also accelerates the destruction and tangling of the beta-amyloid protein that is believed to contribute to the cell death seen in Alzheimer’s.

Scientists believe that more than 1 billion people worldwide, are deficient in vitamin D.   They estimate that at least an additional billion may have very low levels of the vitamin. Not by coincidence, vitamin D deficiency exists in 70-90 percent of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Medical studies have demonstrated that increased vitamin D levels either through sun exposure or supplementation improves cognitive function in the elderly. Positive results have been seen in those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease as well as those who do not have this illness.

The benefits of vitamin D supplementation may appear in four weeks resulting in enhanced processing speed as well as cognitive abilities. One recent medical trial demonstrated that taking vitamin D and the Alzheimer’s medication memantine resulted in better outcomes than either memantine or vitamin D alone.

Vitamin D supplementation may be a simple and effective way of treating and preventing Alzheimer’s disease and should be considered as a natural remedy with small downside.

 

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