Can Vitamin D reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Studies have linked low vitamin D with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. However, it’s not clear whether vitamin D supplementation lowers Alzheimer’s risk. You can get vitamin D through sun exposure as well as your diet.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia in older adults. Alzheimer’s disease is most common in people over the age of 65 and increases with age.  In the UK approximately 1 in 14 people over the age of 65 and 1 in 6 over the age of 80 have Alzheimer’s disease.

There’s currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease.  Additionally, there’s no surefire way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease from developing, although certain lifestyle choices may help to reduce your risk.

Some research has suggested that vitamin D supplementation may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Can getting enough vitamin D help prevent Alzheimer’s disease?

Research done in animals and cells in a laboratory indicates that vitamin D has a neuroprotective effect.

Research has also linked low vitamin D with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  A 2014 study found that, compared to those with sufficient vitamin D, participants who were deficient in vitamin D had a higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Results like these raised the question of whether or not supplementation with vitamin D could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

A 2023 study explored vitamin D and Alzheimers disease risk.  It found that vitamin D exposure was associated with living longer without dementia and 40% lower dementia incidence in general compared to no vitamin D exposure.

It’s certainly food for thought.

Can you take too much vitamin D?

You cannot overdose on vitamin D through exposure to sunlight however taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause too much calcium to build up in the body (hypercalcaemia). This can weaken the bones and damage the kidneys and the heart.

How much vitamin D do I need?

The maximum recommended daily dose for adults is 4,000 IU.  If your doctor has recommended you take a different amount of vitamin D, you should follow their advice.

How can you get enough vitamin D?

The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors. From about late March/early April to the end of September, most people should be able to make all the vitamin D they need from sunlight.

But between October and early March we do not make enough vitamin D from sunlight so it’s a good idea to enrich your diet with foods that are high in vitamin D or consider taking a vitamin D supplement.

Some examples of foods that are rich in vitamin D include:

  • certain fish, including:
    • fatty fish like trout, salmon, and mackerel
    • tinned tuna
    • herring and tinned sardines
  • egg yolks
  • beef liver
  • mushrooms
  • vitamin D-fortified foods, such as:
    • milk
    • soy milk or almond milk
    • certain yogurts
    • orange juice
    • some breakfast cereal products

To conclude….

We know that vitamin D helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body and these nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth, and muscles healthy.  A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children and bone pain caused by a condition called osteomalacia in adults.  Vitamin D is also important for a healthy immune system, can improve mood and reduce depression.  It’s also possible that vitamin D may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, although more research is needed.  Our advice is to get some sun when you can, eat foods that are rich in vitamin D and consider taking a vitamin D supplement, at least in the winter months.