Vitamins & Minerals
By Maureen Williams, ND
Recent research has made us all increasingly aware that vitamin D plays a more vital role in health than was believed in the past. At the same time, over the last decade researchers have become increasingly aware that vitamin D deficiency is more common than previously thought, and they are beginning to see the consequences. One of the most recent findings comes from a new study in which low vitamin D levels were associated with an increased risk of seniors having trouble thinking clearly (cognitive impairment).
Seniors do better with D
Vitamin D levels were higher in people with normal cognitive function than in people with cognitive impairment. The likelihood of cognitive impairment rose as vitamin D levels decreased, and those with the lowest vitamin D levels were more than twice as likely to be cognitively impaired as those with the highest levels. About half of those with cognitive impairment were in the group with the lowest vitamin D levels.
A virtuous vitamin
Poor vitamin D status has a long established link to high risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures. More recent evidence suggests that maintaining a healthy vitamin D status can protect against seasonal depression, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some neurological diseases, and some cancers. Low vitamin D levels are especially prevalent among older people, in part because they tend to spend less time outdoors.
Current guidelines for vitamin D intake are 200 IU per day for children up to age 18, 400 IU per day for adults from age 19 to 70, and 600 IU per day for those 71 and older. Some organizations representing healthcare professionals have begun calling for changes to these recommendations, particularly for children and the elderly, whose needs appear to be greater. The safe upper limit for vitamin D intake has been set at 2,000 IU per day for adults and children older than 1 year, and 1,000 IU per day for younger children, but optimal amounts have yet to be determined.
(J Geriatr Psychiatry Neurol 2009; online publication)
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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