A large, new U.S. study shows that older patients with “very low” levels of one common nutrient have a 122 percent increased risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Yet despite this powerful evidence, the mainstream continues to drone on about the need for “more research” before they make any recommendations to simply take more of this essential vitamin. Some so-called “experts” even discourage blood tests to measure this nutrient in at-risk patients.
I guarantee, if researchers at the National Cancer Institute found any factor could increase the risk of cancer by 122 percent, they would jump all over it. Indeed, they spent decades– and hundreds of millions of dollars–studying the paltry 5 percent increase in risk that excess body weight has on breast cancer. But when it comes to optimal vitamin levels, they always say we “need more research.”
For this study, the researchers followed 1,658 relatively healthy participants from many different parts of the country. Over a six-year period, they assessed the participants’ cognitive function through repeat MRI examinations, medical records, cognitive assessments, and questionnaires. Then, over several decades, they also collected blood samples. They were specifically looking at serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D.
This is how they classified the participants’ 25-hydroxyvitamin D measurements:
- “Very low” = less than 25 nmol/L
- “Low” = 25 nmol/L to 50 nmol/L
- “Sufficient” = 50 nmol/L
During follow-up period, 171 participants were diagnosed with dementia, of which 102 developed Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) specifically. Taking into account age and seasonality, the researchers discovered that men and women with “low” vitamin D ran a 51 percent increased risk of developing dementia. And those with “very low” vitamin D had a 122 percent increased risk.
An earlier study showed a 60 percent increased risk of dementia among those with very low vitamin D. But this new study showed double that risk. And it was a very well-designed study.
For one, they were careful to take into account the appearance of new cognitive problems such as memory decline. They also took into account factors such as education level, sex, BMI, smoking, heavy alcohol use, and depression. As well as diabetes, hypertension, and ethnicity. These other factors could have influenced the dementia rates. So the researchers made sure to adjust for participants according to these factors.
The researchers also excluded participants who developed any dementia within the first year of the study. This step ensured that patients were not already in the early stages of dementia. Researchers also considered whether results were associated with being older, staying indoors, or having a poor diet, which could also incidentally lower vitamin D levels.
After taking all these factors into account, the results still remained consistent.
These new findings suggest that the optimal vitamin D level to prevent dementia is 50 nmol/L. Others have argued that a higher level of 75nmol/L is better.
Of course, it’s widely recognized that a level of 25 nmol/L is enough to promote bone health. And the mainstream recommendations about vitamin D remain fixated on that point. Despite the strong wealth of evidence pointing to the need for higher levels for a host of other health conditions.
Most people simply can’t make enough vitamin D from sun exposure. Especially during winter months. In fact, researchers at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, studied the role of limited sun exposure among populations in Scotland and Scandinavia. They found that people who live at higher latitudes, with less sun exposure for longer periods of the year, were at increased risk of developing dementia.
Despite these kinds of solid findings going back several decades, the researchers said the role of vitamin D supporting overall health remains “controversial.”
Indeed, a British Medical Journal editorial–which accompanied another study during the depths of last winter–advised doctors not to “bother” with measuring vitamin D levels in their patients. They said testing for vitamin D levels is expensive relative to the automated blood tests patients routinely receive on their doctor visits.
But testing and treating a vitamin D deficiency does not even compare to the expense of treating dementia. Furthermore, why aren’t vitamin D levels included among the automated blood tests now being done.
It sounds like the hospital lab technology is dictating the practice of medicine, not other way around. (For more on these concerns, see the upcoming November 2014 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter.)
Plus, the researchers for this new study still said we “need more research.” And Keith Fargo, Ph.D., director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association, which helped fund the study, took a more absurdly hesitant approach.
He mentioned some studies show vitamin E also has cognitive benefits. But in the next breath, he said vitamin E supplements can increase the risk of death, “so it might not be a good idea for people to…start taking a lot of vitamin D.”
Here is a great example of the inaccurate, illogical thinking provided by some mainstream researchers when it comes to nutrition.
First of all, what does taking vitamin E have to do with taking vitamin D? (Unless it’s one of those crummy, daily “multivitamins” that I never recommend.)
Second, as I reported in the July 2014 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter, the mainstream has a totally flawed understanding of vitamin E. In fact, the claims about vitamin E supplements “causing death” have been thoroughly discounted. Furthermore, convincing evidence shows that vitamin E supplementation dramatically reduces dementia compared to the new, “leading” dementia drug. And when given together, the drug appeared to eliminate the benefits of vitamin E.
Perhaps the Alzheimer’s Association should not confuse the duties of Dr. Fargo between director of “scientific programs” and “outreach.” While seemingly not doing a great job on the science, he seems to have the anti-supplement PR propaganda “outreach” down pat.
When it comes to vitamin E and vitamin D supplementation, here’s what I recommend…
A high-quality vitamin D supplement of 5,000 IU every day. If you feel a cold coming on, you can probably decrease the duration and severity of symptoms by upping your daily dose to 10,000 or even 20,000 IU just for the duration of the cold.
Also, make sure you know your numbers. Ask your doctor at your annual check-up to run a vitamin D blood test. There are two different blood tests for vitamin D. So be specific. And ask for the 25(OH)D test. And strive to keep your levels up, but not above 75 nmol/L.
Second, eat plenty of plant oils, wheat germ, nuts, and seeds throughout the week. This good habit can get you close to 30 mg (20 IU) of vitamin E per day, if you’re conscientious. But for optimal health, I also recommend taking a supplement that contains 50 IU of vitamin E. As I explained before, this dose is a safe place to start. And look for one that contains all eight forms of vitamin E.
P.S. In the November issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter, I will expose more dangerous myths about vitamin D. You’ll also learn about the role this critical nutrient plays in just about every chronic disease affecting Americans today. If you’re not yet a newsletter subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started so you don’t miss this important new report. And remember, newsletter subscribers can always access current and past issues on my website at www.drmicozzi.com.
- Vitamin D and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer disease,” Neurology, August 6, 2014, published on-line
- “Vitamin D and risk of cognitive decline in elderly persons,” Arch Intern Med 2010; 170: 1135-1141
- “Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Alzheimer’s Risk, Study Finds,” HealthDay (www.healthday.com) 8/6/2014