The Weekly Thread: vitamin D & dementia, pulling for strength, and don’t let them interrupt your “doing”

Does higher Vitamin D3 levels decrease risk of dementia?

I came across a prospective cohort study that examined the association between vitamin D supplementation and incident dementia in 12,388 dementia-free adults from the National Alzheimer's Coordinating Center titled, Vitamin D supplementation and incident dementia: Effects of sex, APOE, and baseline cognitive status, published fairly recently in March, 2023. 

Vitamin D is a nutrient that is essential for many bodily functions, including bone health, immune function, and cognitive function. In recent years, there has been growing interest in the potential role of vitamin D in dementia prevention, and this study aimed to see if there was a correlation between actual vitamin D supplementation and incidence of dementia. 

In short, the study found and stated that “vitamin D exposure was associated with significantly longer dementia-free survival and lower dementia incidence rate than no exposure”

SIGNIFICANTLY longer dementia-free survival and lower dementia incidence.

Here are some key highlights from the findings of this study:

  • Vitamin D exposure was associated with 40% lower dementia incidence versus no exposure.
  • Vitamin D effects were significantly greater in females versus males and in normal cognition versus mild cognitive impairment.
  • Vitamin D effects were significantly greater in apolipoprotein E ε4 (APOE) non-carriers versus carriers.

Let’s Unpack These Findings a Bit More

Overall, the occurrence of vitamin D supplementation showed a 40% lower incidence of dementia, which I would definitely agree, is quite significant, especially considering this is just a single, very inexpensive preventive intervention with a host of other researched potential benefits such as improved immune function, and reduced risk of other disease. 

Furthermore, there is a tremendous and only natural source of Vitamin D3 readily available this time of year, which is produced from skin exposure to natural sunlight. 

That said, the study found that women (who also comprise 65-70% of the total population afflicted with Alzheimer’s) were even more significantly affected (positively) by vitamin D supplementation.

It also found that those who exhibit no signs of dementia, and had normal cognitive function were also more significantly affected by vitamin D supplementation. Which means, prevention here with vitamin D supplementation (and natural sunlight exposure, which is the natural way to supplement with vitamin D3) is key, as supplementation BEFORE any signs of dementia actually shows a greater impact on helping to keep you free of dementia. 

Finally, non-carriers of APOE e4, a common genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s, were found to also have a more significant impact on reducing incidence of dementia with vitamin D supplementation (you can find this out with a basic genetic test).

Final Thoughts

The study's findings are consistent with some previous research, which has suggested that vitamin D deficiency may be a risk factor for dementia. The difference with this study was that it was attempting to see if there was a correlation between actual vitamin D supplementation and incidence of dementia, which was found, and found to be significant at that. 

One limiting factor of the study was that it was observational and based on existing data sets, and was unable to determine a therapeutic, researched dose of vitamin D supplementation to reduce risk of incidence of dementia. 

Vitamin D supplementation needs can vary based on the individual, so it always helps to get your levels checked with some blood work. That said, there are some general rules I tend to follow that I think are pretty reliable. 

During the warmer spring and summer months, where sunlight is far more direct, and thus, effective at helping the body to naturally produce vitamin D3, I try to get as much natural light exposure as possible, and then supplement with probably 10,000-15,000iu of vitamin D3 per week. 

During the colder, drearier winter months, where sunlight is also far less direct, and far less effective at helping to produce D3 naturally, I will supplement with upwards of 50,000iu per week. 

I also recommend supplementing with extra vitamin K2 either through a high quality multivitamin, or a separate vitamin K2 supplement, with a vitamin D3 supplement. 

Vitamin D3 when taken in higher, what would be known as “therapeutic doses”, helps with calcium absorption, which is great for your bones, however, it can also lead to calcium buildup in your bloodstream, which you don’t want, and vitamin K2 helps mitigate that, along with having its own therapeutic benefits. 

This is a relatively minor downside to vitamin D3 supplementation, which can easily be offset by supplementing with extra vitamin K2, and I would say the tremendous, multi-faceted health benefits of supplementing with vitamin D3 far outweigh this minor downside. 

In the past, I’ve discussed the mindset of “longevity”, and how it starts now, with small, incremental steps. Vitamin D3 supplementation and/or increasing your natural sunlight exposure is probably the most inexpensive supplement you can buy, making it a cost effective, (even free in the case of natural sunlight exposure) easy thing to implement on your quest for greater longevity. 


The “Pull”

This week’s featured functional movement to help you build strength, improve mobility, and boost metabolism is an upper body pulling movement, or “pull”. 

Everything I outline in these segments (with video tutorial links) are movements that require no more than a single kettlebell, and can be done anywhere, and don’t need to be part of an actual exercise regimen, making them great “movement snacks” to incorporate into your daily life. 

If not part of an exercise regimen, just work these movements into your life and day throughout the week, as when put together over time, will build functional strength, increase mobility, and boost your metabolism. All things that will benefit you tremendously as you age. 

These movements are ideal for kids and young teens to work on functional strength, mobility, and to help reduce risk of injury in sports, all the way up to the eldest of adults. 

At the conclusion of this ongoing weekly segment, I will put all the outlined movements together in the form of some great full body workouts that you can do at home, and especially outside with your bare feet in the grass and some skin exposed, soaking up that sweet, sweet natural light. 

An upper body pulling movement refers to exercises that target the muscles of the upper body, particularly the back and arms by pulling a weight towards the body. These exercises are often used to strengthen the muscles of the back, improve posture, and develop upper body strength. 

There are several pulling movements that can be performed with a kettlebell. Here are my favorites:

✔️ Kettlebell Rows. Place one hand and knee on a bench or elevated surface while holding the kettlebell in the opposite hand. Pull the kettlebell towards your side, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Repeat on the other side. CLICK HERE to watch a quick tutorial.

A variation of this movement, and what I prefer to do are Split Stance KB Rows.

✔️ Kettlebell High Pulls. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding the kettlebell between your legs with both hands. Explosively pull the kettlebell up towards your chest, keeping your elbows high and close to your body. Lower the kettlebell back down and repeat. CLICK HERE to watch a quick tutorial. 

To check out previous week’s core functional movements CLICK HERE

“Those who say it cannot be done, should not interrupt those doing it.”

-Chinese Proverb

Anytime you are doing something worth doing, there will be detractors.

The people who are more than happy to provide you with their unsolicited opinion, far too often negative opinion, on why what you’re doing is wrong, not going to work, or just plain dumb. 

I believe a more modern term for this would be “haters”. 😊

Don’t concern yourself with these negative influences. 

This entire world has been built by amazing humans doing amazing things whether it be nationally, locally, or even in our everyday lives. 

You are capable of doing amazing things even on a more micro, daily basis. 

Those who try to interrupt those who are doing, are merely trying to be bottlenecks in the AMAZING-NESS of the human condition. 

Do not let them interrupt. 

You are POWERFUL. Act accordingly.