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Dementia: Dr Sara on benefits of being in nature

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Dementia has made leaps and bounds to raise awareness of risk factors. In doing so, it has shed light on the dietary elements that are key for the conservative of cognitive health. In recent years, the role of vitamins has come into sharp focus too. According to one line of research, a vitamin deficiency that is common around the world could double the risk of decline.

Dementia is particularly problematic because it has a ripple effect across the lives of its sufferers and their loved ones.

Its main characteristic is the downfall of synaptic connections in the brain that hamper memory and cognitive functions.

Of all the preventive measures coming to the fore, vitamin intake is one of the latest to foster attention.

One study conducted by the University of Exeter Medical School confirmed this after highlighting a strong correlation between low vitamin D levels and dementia risk.

READ MORE: Dementia: Having a particular blood type could raise your risk of developing the condition

David Llewellyn, lead author of the study, said: “We expected to find an association between low vitamin D levels and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but the results were surprising – we actually found that the association was twice as strong as we anticipated.”

The 1658 participants of the study, who had an average age of 74 at the outset, were followed for six years to observe how many developed the disease.

The findings, crestor doing published in the journal Neurology, revealed that 107 participants went on to develop dementia.

The results made it apparent that those with the lowest levels of vitamin D had a disproportionately higher risk of the disease.

In fact, subjects who were severely deficient, were 122 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s and 125 percent more likely to have other forms of dementia compared to those with sufficient levels, at 20 micrograms per litre or above.

Llewellyn said: “We need to be cautious at this early stage and our latest results do not demonstrate that low vitamin D levels cause dementia.

“That said, our findings are very encouraging, and even if a small number of people could benefit, this would have enormous public health implications given the devastating and costly nature of dementia.”

Vitamin D has neuroprotective properties because it regulates many of the genes that are crucial for brain functions.

This is because the receptors for the nutrient are widespread in brain tissue.

In its active form, vitamin D has been shown to clear amyloid plaque from the brain, one the earliest physical signs of the condition.

The condition is believed to be caused by the defective control of amyloid proteins, which accumulates and causes sticky plaque in the brain.

The nutrient also acts as a neurosteroid, which is known for its protective effects on the health of neurons.

Although the study highlighted a strong correlation between dementia risk and low vitamin D, no causal relationship could be established.

Commenting on the study, Clare Walton, research communication manager at Alzheimer’s Society said: “A study like this can’t tell us whether being deficient in vitamin D can cause dementia.

“At the moment we are still unclear how the two might be linked and there is even as possibly another unknown factor that could cause someone to have both dementia and low vitamin D levels.

“If this were the case, using supplements or sun exposure to raise vitamin D levels might have no effect on the development of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.”

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