What you need to know about Vitamin D and Dementia

Watch above: Dr. Samir Gupta discusses the five early signs of identifying dementia

A new study examining the vitamin D levels of over 1,600 healthy patients found those with a decreased level had a greater risk of developing dementia.

The study’s results do seem to suggest a link between vitamin D levels and dementia, but Global News’ medical contributor Dr. Samir Gupta stressed that this is an association only, and taking vitamin D does not mean you’ll prevent the disease.

“There may be something else out there that’s actually causing the dementia but also associated with low vitamin D levels,” Dr. Gupta said.

“Examples might be just lifestyle choices, even dietary choices which can affect vitamin D levels but also affect brain health.”

Low vitamin D levels have also been associated with other conditions, including cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis and depression.  However, supplementing vitamin D into the diet has not been shown to decrease the occurrence of these conditions.

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“When we look at the studies of supplementing vitamin D, they haven’t actually been able to show a difference in those diseases, and that includes in dementia,” Dr. Gupta said.

Dr. Gupta describes dementia as an “insidious” disease and said people should look out for five subtle changes in their loved ones, especially as they get older.

  1. Memory changes
    Even more so than long term memory, retaining new information can become difficult. Dr. Gupta says it’s very rarely the person him or herself who noticesany changes, but rather their loved ones.
  2. Difficulty with complex tasks
    Things like paying bills, writing a cheque or balancing a bank account can become increasingly difficult.
  3. Language difficulties
    When speaking, Dr. Gupta says sufferers may have some degree of difficulty in finding the right words.
  4. Impaired spatial orientation
    Dr. Gupta says people may find themselves disoriented or even lost in environments that should already be familiar to them.
  5. Delirium vs. Depression vs. Dementia
    Certain conditions can appear the same as dementia, but are not necessarily indicative of it. Delirium is usually an acute change in behavior and function, typically caused by medications or infections that can affect the brain. It is quickly reversed when the cause is identified and removed.
    Depression can carry similar or identical symptoms to dementia and it does tend to be common among the elderly.