Worried that memory loss may be in your future? Don’t forget to take your vitamins. Higher vitamin D in your diet is associated with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease , according to a new study from the Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.
Researchers surveyed nearly 500 women (ages 75 and up) about their food intake, physical habits, cognitive performance, and other metrics. They then tracked the women over 7 years, and divided them into three groups based on whether or not they developed dementia. They found that women who had developed Alzheimer’s over the seven-year span had lower vitamin D intake (50.3 micgrams per week on average) than women who didn’t develop dementia (59 migrograms per week on average).
Vitamin D—which has been heralded for helping boost mood and strengthen the immune system, among other things—plays a huge role in keeping brain cells healthy, says Michael F. Holick, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Vitamin D, Skin and Bone Research Laboratory at Boston University Medical Center. “The brain’s vitamin D receptors respond to D by boosting serotonin levels, which helps maintain the connectivity of the neurons in the brain, which improves their lifespan,” he says.
This is illustrated by another study, from the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis, which found that low vitamin D levels in older women are associated with higher odds of cognitive impairment and cognitive decline. The more vitamin D they consumed, the greater their cognitive abilities were.
Unfortunately, unless you’re taking a daily supplement, you are probably D deficient, Holick says. The good news is that it’s an easy fix. Here’s your brain-boosting game plan:
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The government recommends adults get 600 IU (International Units), or 15 micrograms, of vitamin D per day, but Holick says that number should be closer to 1,500 or 2,000 IU. Taking a daily supplement is the easiest way to make sure you are getting all the health benefits associated with higher levels of D, he says. Look for supplements that provide at least 1,000 IU.
Read more: Women’s Health