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Molly Bray ’10

Vitamin D intake and average serum level of 25(OH)D3 in a monastic community compared to the national average and how these levels correlate with the com munity's rate of dementia/cognitive decline

Vitamin D is a fat soluble sterol that is synthesized in the skin with sunlight exposure and is found in some food items but rarely occurs naturally.  Few Americans actually achieve the recommended amount, with elderly individuals at the greatest risk of deficiency.  In a previous study with this population less than 10% of older adults (51-70 years old) and no more than 2% of the elderly (older than 70 years) met the vitamin D requirement through diet; however, nearly all of this monastic population use supplements of vitamin D.  More than 75% of this population were over 70 years of age. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to cognitive impairment and dementia. Vitamin D receptors (VDR) are present on neurons and regulate neurotransmission and protect the brain from neurological damage. The purpose of this study was to investigate the connection between vitamin D deficiency and cognitive decline.  Consent was given by the monastery's Health Resource Team and Institutional Review Board.  Dementia prevalence rates of this population were correlated with serum vitamin D levels and compared to national data.  Dementia was significantly lower in the monastic population compared to the national data for elderly women. 

Research Advisor: Amy Olson, PhD, RDN, LD