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Vitamin D and social isolation linked to dementia

June 23, 2022

A new study has revealed a link between dementia and a lack of vitamin D.

Two new studies have revealed links between dementia, a lack of vitamin D and social isolation. increased risk of stroke has also been noted.

Researchers at the University of South Australia used genetic data from 294,514 participants from the UK Biobank to probe the connection between the two, using Nonlinear Mendelian randomization (MR), a method that examines the effects of a modifiable exposure on diseases.

Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study grouped the participants with higher or lower vitamin D levels based on their genes to examine the risk of developing dementia.

The study found that low levels of vitamin D were associated with lower brain volumes and an increased risk of stroke.

It noted up to 17 per cent of dementia cases could be prevented in some populations by increasing everyone to ‘normal’ levels of vitamin D, which they described as 50 nmol/L – the vitamin D insufficiency cut-off point per the Institute of Medicine guideline.

Meanwhile, a further study by the Fudan University in Shanghai, China has found that social isolation is linked to a 26 per cent increased risk of dementia, separately from risk factors like depression and loneliness.

The study looked at 462,619 people across the United Kingdom with an average age of 57 at the beginning of the study who were followed for nearly 12 years before the pandemic.

Of those, 41,886 reported being socially isolated, with 29,036 saying they felt lonely. During the study, 4,998 developed dementia.

Researchers collected survey data from participants, along with a variety of physical and biological measurements, including MRI data. Participants also took thinking and memory tests to assess their cognitive function.

Of the 41,886 people with social isolation, 649 developed dementia, compared to 4,349 of the 420,733 people who were not socially isolated.

After adjusting for factors including age, sex, socioeconomic status, alcohol and nicotine intake, and other conditions like depression and loneliness, researchers found that socially isolated individuals had lower volume in the brain’s grey matter in various regions involved with learning and thinking.

Researchers found that people who were socially isolated were 26 per cent more likely to develop dementia than those with no social isolation. The study also looked at loneliness but, after adjusting, saw no strong correlation with developing dementia.

Related: Alzheimer’s study probes sleep connection

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