At eight test centers across Europe, men ages 40 and older with higher vitamin D levels performed significantly better on cognitive function tests.
University of Manchester scientists, in collaboration with colleagues from other European centers, have shown that higher levels of vitamin D – primarily synthesized in the skin following sun exposure but also found in certain foods such as oily fish – are associated with improved cognitive function in middle-aged and older men.
The study, published online May 21 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry (1), compared the cognitive performance of more than 3,000 men aged 40 to 79 years at eight test centers across Europe. (Italy, Belgium, Poland, Sweden, UK, Spain, Hungary, and Estonia, as part of the European Male Ageing Study.)
The researchers found that men with higher levels of vitamin D performed consistently better in a simple and sensitive neuropsychological test that assesses an individual’s attention and speed of information processing.
“Previous studies exploring the relationship between vitamin D and cognitive performance in adults have produced inconsistent findings but we observed a significant, independent association between a slower information processing speed and lower levels of vitamin D,” said lead author Dr David Lee, in Manchester’s School of Translational Medicine.
“The main strengths of our study are that it is based on a large population sample and took into account potential interfering factors, such as depression, season and levels of physical activity.
“Interestingly, the association between increased vitamin D and faster information processing was more significant in men aged over 60 years, although the biological reasons for this remain unclear.”
“The positive effects vitamin D appears to have on the brain need to be explored further but certainly raise questions about its potential benefit for minimizing ageing-related declines in cognitive performance.”
1. Article: “Association between 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and cognitive performance in middle-aged and older European men,” Lee DM, et al.
Source: University of Manchester news release, May 21, 2009