Vitamin D and memory: Can being short-term memory deficient influence your decisions?

Those with trouble remembering what vitamin D supplements cost should take note: A new study, in a crop of ongoing research, argues that people who had trouble remembering what the product cost and yet…

Vitamin D and memory: Can being short-term memory deficient influence your decisions?

Those with trouble remembering what vitamin D supplements cost should take note: A new study, in a crop of ongoing research, argues that people who had trouble remembering what the product cost and yet could correctly answer questions about the history of their family generally were less likely to die in the study period than people with otherwise comparable scores.

Researchers cannot yet conclude that the reason is that people who always had trouble remembering the cost of a supplement were more likely to die of breast cancer or prostate cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease than people with better scores on the color-coding test. But there was a correlation, and researchers did not find any such correlations for anything else except cell signaling in the brain.

“They say that common sense should guide our decisions, and we can rely on common sense to help guide our decisions,” said lead researcher Douglas Wilson, a psychologist at the University of Utah. “With vitamin D we know that this common sense has been influenced by a confluence of factors, and that leads us to ask how common sense is affected.”

For Wilson and colleagues, those factors included recent sun exposure, someone’s body mass index, their body’s sensitivity to vitamin D, their baseline vitamin D deficiency, their calcium intake and how many times they walked during the 12 months preceding taking the survey. They also considered how often participants were advised to drink vitamin D-rich fortified beverages.

Study participants were studied from 2003 through 2010. The researchers counted the number of subjects who died, as well as the number who did not die and also the number who died more than two years after the survey ended. They then compared the people with answers that were less than optimal — such as participants’ inability to remember the specific price of a product compared with that of an equivalent amount purchased in another person or in other similar products.

“The important thing to recognize is not just that a vitamin D score is less than optimal,” Wilson said. “The important thing to recognize is that people with low vitamin D scores have a variety of other confounding factors that may lead to their vitamin D scores also being low.”

The researchers also found that people with more favorable scores for memory problems seemed to have better absorption of vitamin D from the food and other sources that they studied and had higher levels of vitamin D in their bloodstreams.

Vitamin D is essential for several body functions, and it has a variety of helpful properties. It is particularly important for bone health. But while many study participants had a good sense of whether they were deficient in vitamin D and were aiming to get more of it from food or supplements, some of those who did not got adequate amounts of the vitamin from food and others from supplements, leading to excessive vitamin D exposure in their bloodstreams.

Wilson said that potentially supplementationary doses of vitamin D should vary in terms of the relative strength of a person’s immune system as well as how long their bodies spent exposed to the sun.

A health food store close to her home in Minnesota uses low doses of vitamin D supplements to track that the stores have sold enough of them. But Wilson said the best thing people can do is simply spend more time outdoors.

The study will be published in an upcoming issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

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