A study undertaken by researchers at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School NUS have found an association between low vitamin D levels and cognitive impairment in the elderly in China.

Professor David Matchar, director of the programme in Health Services and Systems Research at the institution led a study with a team of researchers to cover eight different areas in China called “longevity areas” to measure the vitamin D levels and cognitive abilities of participants and announced the findings in a press conference today (Oct 9).

The collaborative study, which began in 2012, is supported by the Singapore Ministry of Health’s National Medical Research Council, the National Institute of Aging/National Institute of Health and the National Natural Science Foundation of China and involved researchers from the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore, Peking University in Beijing, China and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The research was conducted based on an analysis of data gathered from 936 men and 1068 women in China who had an average age of 84.9 years.

One of the key conclusions from the study found that after adjusting for various factors such as age, gender, chronic conditions, smoking, drinking habits and more, it showed that those with decreased vitamin D levels were associated with almost twice as much risk of cognitive impairment compared to those with higher levels.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble supplement responsible for the healthy absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the body. It can be found in foods such as fish, egg yolk, fortified cereals and also sunlight.

He also presented findings from other studies that compared vitamin D levels between the rest of the world and Asia, and showed that the latter had lower levels of it. A reading of 50 nanomolecules (nmol) per litre of blood is considered to be adequate. In this particular study involving the elderly in China, participants had a vitamin D average level of 43.1 nmol per litre.

“The point is that as a population ages, they’re more likely to be vitamin D deficient and that’s associated with health-related consequences. There has to be a move on what needs to be done about it,” said Professor Matchar.

His team of researchers now plan to examine if vitamin D deficiency actually causes cognitive impairment and preparations are in process.

“[But] this is not a major call for people to supplement their vitamin D levels,” he added.

Source: Today Online. Reproduced with permission.