With an ageing population, dementia cases among the growing groups of seniors are expected to increase alarmingly in the next few decades, accompanied by a terrible cost in pain and suffering for families as well as an enormous financial burden on the already sparse public health purse.
So the results of the biggest study yet to be undertaken into nutritional factors linked to this affliction will be keenly examined by clinicians and policy makers alike.
The research, published in the journal Neurology, represents the culmination of a six year programme in which some 1,658 dementia-free seniors over the age of 65 were tested for vitamin D levels which were then tracked through the course of the study.
The work has revealed a startling correlation between Vitamin D and the onset of both senile dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Those with low levels of vitamin D were 53% more likely to develop dementia and 69% more likely to suffer from Alzheimer's.
In seniors with a severe vitamin D deficiency the contrast was even more stark, with the likelihood of senile dementia leaping to 125% and Alzheimer's to 122% making this group more than twice as likely to suffer from these brain disorders.
The researchers stressed that these results do not prove a causal link between the vitamin and the disease, but does show that more clinical trials are needed to examine the correlation.
Nonetheless it is clearly desireable for all seniors to ensure that they maintain healthy levels of Vitamin D which is derived from sunshine as well as foodstuffs like oily fish, cheese, some cereals, fortified milk and mushrooms.
There are also many nutritional supplements available in a variety of forms.
The links between vitamin D and dementia have been mapped before, but never with such clearly defined results.
The Exeter team hope that this might be the beginning of a breakthrough in dealing with this devastating condition.
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