Serum Vitamin D Predicts Cognitive Performance in Adults

Much of the research on the relationship between vitamin D and cognitive function has been conducted on older people or individuals who have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementia. This is because older people are less able to synthesise vitamin D in their skin and because dementia is typically a disease of aging. A study published in August 2015 looked at the relationship between vitamin D status and cognitive function in two cohorts of healthy individuals; those aged 30-60 and 60+. Research on disease-free groups is important because it allows us to look at the potential effect that nutritional deficiency has on the general population and on sub-clinical (no diagnosis) functioning. That is to say that we can learn more about how dietary insufficiencies might be affecting the general population long before disease onset. This information allows us more opportunity to intervene with treatment.

In this study of vitamin D in the blood were strongly associated with the degree of cognitive impairment on tests of visual spatial memory (recalling and recreating a complex shape) and processing speed. In this study lower levels of vitamin D were associated with poorer performance on these tests even in people aged 30.  This study complements a growing body of research that is demonstrating a relationship between vitamin D status and brain function (including influence on mood and anxiety disorders).

There is also growing concern worldwide about the ‘pandemic’ of vitamin D deficiency and the many health concerns it is associated with such as osteoporosis, fractures, and increased risk of some cancers and autoimmune diseases. It is estimated that at least 50% of people are vitamin D deficient and the situation is worse for those of with dark skin as the melanin pigment blocks the action of vitamin D synthesis in the skin. Food sources of vitamin D include oily fish (salmon, sardines and mackerel), eggs and fortified cereals, though few people are eating sufficient amounts of these foods to keep their levels topped up, and vegetarians and vegans need to be very thoughtful about their food/supplement choices to ensure adequate levels.


Darwish, H., Zeinoun, P., Ghusn, H., Khoury, B., Tamim, H., and Khoury, S. J. (2015). Serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D predicts cognitive performance in adults. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 11, 2217–2223.