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J Nutr Health Aging. 2014 Apr;18(4):400-6. doi: 10.1007/s12603-013-0409-9.

Plasma vitamin D levels and cognitive function in aging women: the nurses' health study.

Author information

B. Bartali, New England Research Institutes, Epidemiology, 9 Galen St., Watertown, MA, Email:, Phone number: 617-972-8350, Fax number: 617-924-0968.



Vitamin D may play a role in preserving cognitive function. However, there is a paucity of prospective studies on the relationship between vitamin D and cognition with aging. The aim of this study was to examine the association between plasma levels of vitamin D and subsequent cognitive function.


This is a prospective study including 1,185 women aged 60-70 years from the Nurses' Health Study, who had plasma 25-hydroxy-vitamin D levels measured in 1989-1990 and completed an initial Telephone Interview of Cognitive Status approximately 9 years later. Subsequently, three follow-up cognitive assessments were conducted at 1.5-2.0 years intervals. We used multivariable-adjusted linear regression to model initial cognitive function, and mixed linear regression to model change in cognitive function over time.


Lower vitamin D levels were associated with significantly worse cognitive function 9 years later. For example, the mean global composite score averaging all the cognitive tests was 0.20 lower (95% Confidence Interval (CI):-0.33,-0.08; p-trend=0.009) in women in the lowest quintile (median=14.1 ng/mL) compared with women in the highest quintile of vitamin D (median=38.4 ng/mL). The observed differences were equivalent to the effect estimates we found for women who were approximately 4-6 years apart in age. However, vitamin D levels were not significantly associated with subsequent cognitive decline during 6 years of follow-up.


Higher levels of plasma vitamin D in women aged 60-70 years were associated with better cognitive function about a decade later but were not associated with cognitive decline during 6 years of follow-up.

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