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Vitamin D: Essential For Mind and Respiration?

According to a new study called the European Male Aging Study vitamin D may slow age-related losses in mental function.

The results of the study are published online in the May 2009 issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

The population-based cross-sectional study included 3,369 men aged 40 to 79 from across Europe.

Researchers from Manchester, England's School of Translational Medicine measured cognitive function using three separate, comprehensive tests.  The researchers also measured physical activity, functional performance and mood/depression.

They found that higher levels of vitamin D were associated with better cognitive function, especially with regard to attention and speed of information processing.

Another study, conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, found that vitamin D may slow the progressive decline in breathing that can occur in asthmatics.  This decline occurs as a result of human airway smooth muscle (HASM) proliferation.

The study's findings were presented at the American Thoracic Society's 105th International Conference in San Diego.

The researchers tested cells isolated from both asthmatics and non-asthmatics.  They found that calcitriol, a form of vitamin D3 synthesized within the body, inhibited HASM by 60%.  In contrast, dexmethasone, a corticosteroid commonly prescribed for asthma, had little effect on HASM.

The study will be followed up with a randomized control trial of calcitriol in patients with severe asthma.

Getting more sun can boost vitamin D levels, however, this can prove difficult as you age because your skin becomes less efficient at synthesizing the vitamin. This is part of the reason why over 95% of adults aged 50-70 have vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency.

Vitamin D deficiency can have far ranging consequences including osteoporosis, muscle weakness, fractures, and cardiovascular diseases.

Increased vitamin D intake is also associated with a range of health benefits. They include bone health, lower blood pressure, increased calcium absorption, stimulation of the immune system, and even protection against certain cancers.

Previous article Lutein and Zeaxanthin May Provide Cognitive Health Benefits

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