For the first time, researchers have looked at vitamin D levels in brain tissue, and their findings may shed light on the root causes of dementia.
As the world’s population ages, it is projected that the number of people living with dementia will increase from the current 55 million. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that there are currently 6.5 million Americans dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. Better understanding the variables that can cause dementia is necessary for the development of medicines that can slow or stop the disease.
Tufts University researchers have finished the first study to look at vitamin D levels in brain tissue in adults with varied degrees of cognitive deterioration. They found that those in this group who had higher vitamin D levels in their brains also had superior overall cognitive performance.
Brain tissue samples from 209 people who took part in the Rush Memory and Aging Project, a long-term research of Alzheimer’s disease that began in 1997, were analyzed by Booth, Shea, and their team. Scientists at Rush University monitored the mental faculties of their subjects, all of whom were elderly persons showing no evidence of cognitive decline, and examined anomalies in brain tissue after their deaths.
The Tufts study examined vitamin D levels in four different parts of the brain: two known to undergo significant associations with Alzheimer’s disease, one expected to undergo changes associated with dementias related to blood flow, and one area without any documented correlations with cognitive decline due to Alzheimer’s or vascular illness. Vitamin D was discovered to be found in brain tissue, with higher levels being associated with enhanced cognitive performance across the board in all four brain areas.
Brain vitamin D levels were not correlated with amyloid plaque accumulation, Lewy body illness, or indications of chronic or microscopic strokes, which are all known physiological markers of Alzheimer’s disease. Because of this, the precise effect of vitamin D on cognitive processes is still unknown.