People who have a shortage of vitamin D are more at risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and suffering mental decline in later life, research has revealed.
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Those with low blood levels of vitamin D have a three-fold higher risk of developing the disease, a 30-year study of 3,000 people has found.
Another study found that difficulties with mental ability in older age are also 60% more likely if there is a shortage of vitamin D.
Both studies, published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, add to growing evidence of the vitamin’s importance to health.
Vitamin D is mainly generated by the action of sunlight on the skin. However, as people age their skin becomes less able to produce it.
Research suggests that as well as strengthening bones, the vitamin also protects against cancers, heart disease and diabetes.
For the Parkinson’s study, researchers in Finland recruited 3,173 men and women aged 50 to 79 who did not have the disease.
Over a 29-year follow-up period, 50 of the group developed Parkinson’s disease.
Those who had the lowest amounts of vitamin D were three times more likely to develop Parkinson’s than those with the highest.
The second study, conducted by US, British and Italian scientists, assessed the mental performance of 850 people aged 65 or over living in Italy.
Over a period of up to six years, participants who were severely deficient in vitamin D were 60% more likely to suffer substantial mental decline than those with healthy levels.