Research Says Vitamin D Prevents Dementia – CP24 Pipa News


Research Says Vitamin D Prevents Dementia – CP24

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

Published Wednesday, March 1, 2023 12:44PM EST

Researchers at the University of Calgary are launching a nationwide project to better understand the brain as people age.

The CAN-PROTECT project, led by Dr. Zahinoor Ismail, starting Wednesday – the same day a new paper he co-authored shows that taking vitamin D can help prevent dementia.

“We compared older adults who took vitamin D with those who didn’t take vitamin D for 10 years for the rate of development of dementia,” said Ismail, a professor of psychiatry and neurology at the U of C and the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.

The 12,000 participants in the study, published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, were part of the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center in the United States. They had an average age of 71 and had no dementia when they enlisted. About 37 percent of those involved took vitamin D supplements.

“What we found was that individuals who took vitamin D at baseline compared to those who didn’t take vitamin D during that time were likely to develop dementia at a 40 percent lower rate, so it’s quite a significant association,” Ismail said in an interview .

Researchers also found that the effects were greater in women than in men and in people with normal cognition than in those with mild cognitive impairment, which is associated with a higher risk of developing dementia.

Ismail said this might suggest “the earlier you start, the more you can prevent progression.”

He and others are now working to obtain Canadian-specific data through the national research project. It is modeled after an online platform called PROTECT, based at the University of Exeter, which asks for annual questionnaires about detailed lifestyle factors combined with some cognitive tests to determine what keeps the brain sharp later in life.

The Canadian project, he said, will build on the results of the vitamin D study with US participants.

“We’re further north and there are other variables that we want to measure more accurately with respect to your ethno-cultural group, whether you live in a sunny place or not, whether you move south for the winter,” Ismail said .

“There are many other variables that we would like to know, which will allow us to refine our understanding even more.”

The study will be conducted online and researchers hope to recruit approximately 10,000 participants from across Canada.

“People sign up with a study partner — someone they’ve known well for at least five years — and then there are annual measures of health and well-being, risk and resilience, cognition, behavioral function,” he said.

The study will take 20 years to complete, and he said people from all areas and backgrounds can participate at any time.

“It’s a way to get a real understanding of brain aging over time,” Ismail said, noting that researchers will take a closer look at vitamin D and many other factors that can affect the brain.

The research, he added, also includes a survey of people caring for people with dementia — both family caregivers and nurses, occupational therapists and others who work in caring roles.

Calgarian Andrea Protzner, who was previously involved in one of Ismail’s studies, helps care for her father who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

“It’s really hard,” she said. “The person you love has completely changed emotionally, in terms of behavior, in terms of what they can and can’t do. I can’t even imagine doing that full time. Even part-time, with my dad in a house, it’s a big part of my life and it takes a lot.

“If we can create support for the caregiver, then the person in charge of everything related to the loved one can do better, have it easier, get through it.”

Protzner said it’s also important to learn more about how her brain ages.

“Alzheimer’s has a hereditary component, so knowing my dad has it means I know I’m at higher risk,” she said. “For me, information is power. Having the information is huge.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on March 1, 2023.

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