Food and Behaviour Research

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Vitamin D deficiency is associated with low mood and worse cognitive performance in older adults

Wilkins CH, Sheline YI, Roe CM, Birge SJ, Morris JC. (2006) The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 14(12) 1032-40 

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BACKGROUND: Vitamin D deficiency is common in older adults and has been implicated in psychiatric and neurologic disorders. This study examined the relationship among vitamin D status, cognitive performance, mood, and physical performance in older adults.

METHODS: A cross-sectional group of 80 participants, 40 with mild Alzheimer disease (AD) and 40 nondemented persons, were selected from a longitudinal study of memory and aging. Cognitive function was assessed using the Short Blessed Test (SBT), Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE), Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR; a higher Sum of Boxes score indicates greater dementia severity), and a factor score from a neuropsychometric battery; mood was assessed using clinician's diagnosis and the depression symptoms inventory. The Physical Performance Test (PPT) was used to measure functional status. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were measured for all participants.

RESULTS: The mean vitamin D level in the total sample was 18.58 ng/mL (standard deviation: 7.59); 58% of the participants had abnormally low vitamin D levels defined as less than 20 ng/mL. After adjusting for age, race, gender, and season of vitamin D determination, vitamin D deficiency was associated with presence of an active mood disorder (odds ratio: 11.69, 95% confidence interval: 2.04-66.86; Wald chi(2) = 7.66, df = 2, p = 0.022). Using the same covariates in a linear regression model, vitamin D deficiency was associated with worse performance on the SBT (F = 5.22, df = (2, 77), p = 0.044) and higher CDR Sum of Box scores (F = 3.20, df = (2, 77), p = 0.047) in the vitamin D-deficient group. There was no difference in performance on the MMSE, PPT, or factor scores between the vitamin D groups.

CONCLUSIONS: In a cross-section of older adults, vitamin D deficiency was associated with low mood and with impairment on two of four measures of cognitive performance.