Vitamin D Intake Associated with Cognitive Performance in Older Women

Though many people associate vitamin d with its role in promoting bone health, it also plays an important part in immune and brain functioning.  In fact, vitamin d has also been linked to protective roles in preventing autoimmune disease such as multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes along with certain types of cancers.

From a dietary standpoint, primary sources of vitamin d include fatty fish along with fortified milk.  For vegans, mushrooms are the only natural source of vitamin d aside from sunlight exposure.

Vitamin D, Learning and Memory?

There are vitamin d receptors throughout the brain which affect proteins involved with learning and memory, motor control, and possibly social functions as well.  Previous research has linked vitamin D deficiency to global cognitive impairment in elderly women.  Researchers from France recently published the results of a community survey which has explored the association between vitamin d intake and cognitive performance in older adults [1].

Results of this study were recently published in the November issue of the Journal of Neurology.  The study itself included 5,596 community dwelling women who had an average age of 80.5.

The two groups were divided upon recruitment based on their baseline weekly vitamin d intake–those who consumed the recommended 35 μg/wk and those who consumed an inadequate amount <35 μg/wk.

For the purpose of this particular study, they defined ‘cognitive impairment’ as a Pfeiffer Short Portable Mental State Questionnaire (SPMSQ) score <8.

From the Study Authors:

“The main finding of this populationbasedstudy of 5,596 older women free of vitamin Ddrug supplements was that the weekly dietary intakeof vitamin D was significantly associated with theglobal cognitive performance in both linear and logisticregression models, even while considering theeffects of all potential confounders.”

The study authors conceded that it has yet to be confirmed as to whether or not this association is causal. For example, they noted that women with cognitive decline may simply eat a poorly. As such, they note that vitamin d deficiency may simply be a surrogate measure for other nutritional abnormalities.

Vitamin D’s Neuroprotective Effects

On the other hand, they note that vitamin D has potential neuroprotective effects. Other related research has shown an association between vitamin d deficiency and Alzheimer’s disease [2].

[box type=”important”]Either way, vitamin d deficiency is a measurable and modifiable risk factor for preventing potential cognitive decline.[/box]


  1. Neurology. 2010 Nov 16;75(20):1810-6.
  2. Neurology 2010;74:18–26.

13 thoughts on “Vitamin D Intake Associated with Cognitive Performance in Older Women

  • December 13, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Whether a high pulse is one of the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency?
    Thanks for useful information.


  • November 28, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    On the topic of Vitamin D, the importance of vitamin D in the development of cancer was further confirmed by a Sylvia Chistakos, Ph.D., of the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School. Her research, published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry, showed that the active form of vitamin D induces the production of a protein that can inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells.

  • November 26, 2010 at 1:22 am

    Thanks for sharing article. More and more brain research supports the idea that our brain functioning can improve no matter our age, with the adoption of appropriate lifestyle and tools, and that doing so can help build our cognitive reserves and protect our brains against decline and even Alzheimer´s symptoms. I recommend checking out for a lot of good stuff on lifelong cognitive health and brain fitness, including this nice checklist to evaluate “brain training” products and claims:

  • November 23, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    I knew that vitamin D affected bone strength and mood but I hadn’t heard of the brain connection. Thanks for the information!

    • November 24, 2010 at 8:24 am

      Hi Deb, thanks for your feedback. Vitamin D has been a hot topic lately and even discussed on Oprah from what I hear.

  • November 23, 2010 at 5:52 am


    Interesting study Jarret. That’s quite a large study there. Looks like Vitamin D has more benefits in the elderly than we expect. Will RT this

  • November 23, 2010 at 6:06 am

    I am wondering can you provide us links for references instead of written reference. I want to include some data of this research on my blog if possible.


  • November 22, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Is that Homer Simpson??

  • November 22, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Hey Jarret, thanks for sharing this research on Vit D. As a fitness professional, I actually prescribe Vit D3 supplementation and daily sun exposure to my clients, especially women, because I actually think we are more affected by the deficiency then men. It’s just a guess, but women have come to me much more than men telling me they tested low for Vit D. The best thing about having adequate levels of Vit D is that it is reported to flat out make us feel better! In the winter, when our sun exposure is limited, this is really important.

    • November 22, 2010 at 6:01 pm

      Hi Susan, women are affected by depression nearly twice as often as men. As well, vitamin D deficiency has been liked to an increased risk for depression. At least one small pilot study showed that Vitamin D3 supplementation was effective for reducing depressive symptoms in women during the winter.

      You’re also correct that women are more likely to have vitamin d deficiency compared to men.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


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