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Vitamin D may help people with Alzheimer’s disease

September 8, 2014

Patients treated with vitamin D may experience a slower progression to more severe stages of Alzheimer’s disease, reports a new study from Argentina.

The observational study with 202 patients suffering from a mild stage of Alzheimer's disease (AD) who were treated with memantine (drug for AD), acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and/or vitamin D3, measured the time of progression to moderate and severe disease status during a mean time of 4.5 years (1). The study results showed that the treatment with vitamin D affected the time of AD progression independently of the other factors analyzed, e.g., medications, cardiovascular risk factors and osteoporosis. Patients treated with vitamin D had slower AD progression and took one year longer to develop to a more severe stage compared to those not treated with vitamin D.

The researchers noted that vitamin D deficiency has been reported to increase the risk of developing AD, while maintaining sufficient vitamin D levels may reduce the number of plaques that develop with AD (2). Receptors for vitamin D in the brain have led researchers to become interested in how vitamin D affects the development and the management of AD. The disease, which develops slowly and gets worse over time, affects one in nine people older than 65 years old and is characterized by a loss of memory and changes in behavior. Many patients receive memantine, a drug specifically designed to treat AD, and acetylcholin-esterase (AChE) inhibitors, used to treat the symptoms of dementia in general.

References

  1. Chaves M. et al. Treatment with vitamin D and slowing of progression to severe stage of Alzheimer's disease. Vertex. 2014; 25(114):85-91.
  2. Littlejohns T. J. et al. Vitamin D and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer disease. Neurology. Published online August 2014.