It seems doctors should be prescribing a winter sunshine holiday. According to a new study, a lack of Vitamin D, which comes from sunlight, could increase the risk of being diagnosed with dementia.
Earlier research has found that the possibility of getting dementia rises depending on whether there is a family history of the condition. Smoking and being overweight also add to the danger of developing dementia.
Now, latest research from scientists at Edinburgh University has found that not getting enough sunshine could also be a trigger.
The world-wide study found that people who had lower levels of Vitamin D were at greater risk of developing the condition, which can affect memory, personality and reasoning.
Researchers believe their findings could lead to advice surrounding prevention of dementia being changed to include taking Vitamin D supplements or spending more time outdoors in the sunshine.
Vitamin D, which people absorb through their skin when in the sunshine, was found to help to clear the protein build-up which can cause Alzheimer’s disease.
A lack of what has been dubbed the sunshine vitamin was found to be a potential environmental cause of the condition, along with exposure to toxins including air pollution, pesticides and very high levels of minerals such as aluminium in drinking water.
Dr Tom Russ, who works at the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre at Edinburgh University said the ultimate goal of his research team was to prevent, or at least delay, the onset of dementia.
He added: “Environmental risk factors are an important new area to consider here, particularly since we might be able to do something about them.
“You could help people to prevent the onset of dementia through taking supplements, getting outside more or limiting air pollution.”
These latest findings report an earlier study, also in Edinburgh which found that living further north may increase a person’s chance of developing dementia.
Previously, around a third of Alzheimer’s cases have been put down to lifestyle choices; with having diabetes or high blood pressure, smoking or being overweight all said to increase the risk. Another third of those with the condition are set to have it because genetics make them more susceptible.
Researchers say the remaining third of cases could be down to the environment with live in. This latest study combined three pieces of research which looked at around 1,200 people, finding that those who had lower Vitamin D levels were more likely to have dementia.