Altoida Celebrates Historic Day for Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease

Understanding Vitamin D Deficiency Effects on the Brain

October 11, 2022Neelem Sheikh

Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, providing the nutrients needed to maintain the health of bones, teeth, and muscles. A deficiency in vitamin D can lead to reduced bone density and can contribute to osteoporosis and fractures. While the role of vitamin D in skeletal health is well-established, new research has linked vitamin D deficiency to a range of non-skeletal conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, and recently, cognitive impairment and dementia.

In this article, we will take a look at the potential effects of vitamin D deficiency on brain health, discussing its effects on the two primary components of brain health: cognitive health and mental and behavioral health. 

Vitamin D Deficiency Effects on Brain Health: Cognitive Health

Over the last several decades, animal studies and human studies have demonstrated a potential link between vitamin D deficiency and cognitive decline. While many cross-sectional studies have shown a strong association between low vitamin D and cognitive impairment, longitudinal studies have shown rather mixed results.

For example, a 2018 population-based longitudinal study of 1,058 adults (with a median age of 75) found that even moderately low vitamin D was associated with poorer performance in multiple domains of cognitive function. However, low vitamin D was not able to predict a 12-year cognitive decline.

On the other hand, a 2015 population-based longitudinal study of 405 elderly adults found that severe vitamin D deficiency was independently associated with future risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) as well as dementia. Similarly, a 2017 population-based longitudinal study of 916 adults aged 65+ found that compared to individuals with vitamin D sufficiency, those with vitamin D deficiency exhibited a faster rate of cognitive decline. Vitamin D deficiency was associated with a nearly three-fold increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease

While the underlying mechanisms linking vitamin D deficiency with cognitive decline and dementia are not fully understood, several mechanisms have been proposed:

  • Vitamin D has shown neuroprotective effects on the brain, including the clearance of beta-amyloid plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. A lack of vitamin D may cause an increased buildup of such plaques due to the reduction in clearance, contributing to cognitive decline.
  • Because lower levels of vitamin D are produced in the older population, a deficiency in vitamin D may be an accelerating factor in the progression of the aging process. In other words, vitamin D deficiency may accelerate age-related cognitive decline.
  • Because vitamin D modulates the biosynthesis of neurotransmitters and neurotrophic factors, and its receptors are found in the central nervous system, vitamin D deficiency may be a risk factor for several neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders.

Vitamin D Deficiency Effects on Brain Health: Mental and Behavioral Health

Vitamin D deficiency has been increasingly associated with several depressive disorders, though the directionality remains unclear. While vitamin D deficiency is known to be more prevalent in those with depressive disorders, some researchers believe that low vitamin D levels may increase the risk of developing depression.

Several cross-sectional studies and cohort studies have linked depression and low levels of vitamin D. In a 2020 systematic review of available literature, it was found that all included studies demonstrated that depressed subjects had lower levels of vitamin D compared to controls. They also found that those with the lowest vitamin D levels had the greatest risk of depression (odds ratio 1.31).

Proposed biological links between vitamin D and depression include:

  • Immunomodulation
  • Inflammation
  • Cellular signaling
  • The hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis
  • Intracellular calcium homeostasis
  • Monoamine neurotransmission

Emerging research also suggests that vitamin D supplementation may provide therapeutic benefits for individuals with depression; however, findings have been somewhat inconsistent.

How to Increase Your Vitamin D Levels

According to the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health recommended that daily allowances for vitamin D are as follows:

AgeMale(mcg, IU)Female(mcg, IU)
0-12 months*10, 40010, 400
1-70 years15, 60015, 600
>70 years20, 80020, 800

* Adequate intake

An estimated 41.6% of Americans have a vitamin D deficiency. Given the high prevalence, research surrounding the effects of vitamin D deficiency on brain health may have important public health implications, though further investigation is needed.

If you are looking to increase your vitamin D levels to meet the recommended daily intake, you may consider the following sources of vitamin D:

  • Certain foods: While few foods naturally contain vitamin D, fatty fish (e.g. mackerel, trout, salmon, and tuna) and fish oils are a good way to boost your vitamin D levels. Egg yolks, cheese, and beef liver contain small amounts of vitamin D.
  • Sun exposure: Most people can make enough vitamin D needed to meet the above requirements through exposure to sunlight. The energy from the sun transforms a chemical in your skin into vitamin D3. It is then carried to the liver and finally to the kidneys, where it is turned into active vitamin D.
  • Dietary supplements: Dietary supplements are another source of vitamin D and can be a good option in winter months or in locations that do not receive as much sunlight.

Take Charge of Your Brain Health with Altoida

It is never too early or too late to start making positive lifestyle changes and taking charge of your brain health.

At Altoida, we are dedicated to providing a reliable, affordable, and highly accurate way to measure and monitor your brain health. We are building the world’s-first Precision Neurology platform and app-based medical device—backed by 11 years of clinical validation—to accelerate and improve drug development, neurological disease research, and patient care.

By completing a 10-minute series of augmented reality and motor activities designed to simulate complex Activities of Daily Living on a smartphone or tablet, Altoida’s device extracts and provides robust measurements of neurocognitive function across 13 neurocognitive domains. Our device measures and analyzes nearly 800 multimodal cognitive and functional digital biomarkers. Through the collection of highly granular data from integrated smartphone or tablet sensors, Altoida’s device produces comprehensive neurocognitive domain scores. This data can be tracked longitudinally to reveal trends and patterns while flagging concerning ones.

To learn more about the effects of vitamin D deficiency on brain health or about using Altoida’s Precision Neurology platform to monitor your brain health, contact us today.

Contact Us

At Altoida, we use digital biomarkers to radically change the method of assessing brain health and cognitive diseases. After nearly two decades of research, we are developing a platform and device to measure and analyze cognitive biomarkers associated with cognitive impairment to evaluate perceptual and memory function.
Contact Us

Contact Us

80 M Street SE, Suite 100 Washington, DC 20003 USA 

CONTACT@ALTOIDA.COM

Follow Us

Policy

By visiting our Website and/or using the Services in any manner, you acknowledge that you accept the practices and policies outlined in our Privacy Policy.


Our Disclaimer

@ Altoida 2022