Sunlight could ward off dementia and stroke after scientists showed a direct link between vitamin D and conditions in a world’s first study.
A new study based on British people said cases of dementia could drop by nearly a fifth if people deficient in the vitamin took supplements to bring them to healthy levels.
It is known as the sunshine vitamin because the skin produces it when exposed to light.
The team from the University of South Australia surveyed nearly 300,000 people from the UK biobank looking at the impact of low vitamin D levels and the risk of dementia and stroke.
They found that low vitamin D levels were associated with lower brain volumes and an increased risk of dementia and stroke.
Further genetic analyzes supported a causal effect of vitamin D deficiency and dementia.
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They said that in some populations up to 17% of dementia cases could be prevented by bringing everyone to normal levels of vitamin D.
Dementia is a leading cause of disability and addiction among older people around the world, influencing thinking and behaviors with age.
Globally, more than 55 million people suffer from dementia with 10 million new cases diagnosed each year. With no cure in sight, there is a growing focus on preventative behaviors.
Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia affect over 920,000 people in the UK, a figure that will rise to two million over the next three decades.
Study author Professor Elina Hyppönen, senior researcher and director of UniSA’s Australian Center for Precision Health, said the findings are important for dementia prevention and appreciating the need to abolish vitamin D deficiency. .
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“In this UK population we have seen that up to 17% of dementia cases could have been avoided by increasing vitamin D levels in a normal range,” he said.
“Our study is the first to examine the effect of very low vitamin D levels on dementia and stroke risks, using robust genetic analyzes on a large population.
“Vitamin D is a hormone precursor that is increasingly recognized for widespread effects, including on brain health, but until now it has been very difficult to examine what would happen if we could prevent vitamin D deficiency.
“In some settings, where vitamin D deficiency is relatively common, our findings have important implications for dementia risks.
“Dementia is a progressive and debilitating disease that can devastate individuals and families alike.
“If we can change this reality by making sure none of us are severely deficient in vitamin D, we would also have additional benefits and could change the health and well-being of thousands of people.
“Most of us are likely to be fine, but for anyone who for whatever reason may not be getting enough vitamin D from the sun, dietary changes may not be enough and supplementation may be required.”
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The genetic study analyzed data from 294,514 participants in the British biobank, looking at the impact of low vitamin D levels (25 nmol / L) and the risk of dementia and stroke.
Nonlinear Mendelian Randomization (MR), a method of using measured variation in genes to examine the causal effect of modifiable exposure on disease, was used to test for underlying causality for neuroimaging, dementia, and stroke outcomes.
The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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