Existing reports in the literature suggest that hypercholesterolemia and low levels of vitamin D are associated with mild cognitive impairment and with Alzheimer’s disease.  However, these observations do not establish a relationship between cognitive function and 25 hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D], lipids, or oxysterols produced in cholesterol metabolism.  In order to explore this possible relationship, Liu and colleagues conducted a study in the Shanxi province of China, and their results are published in the December 2021 issue of The Journal of Nutrition.

Age and gender matched healthy controls and patients with mild cognitive impairment (49.5% male and median age of 63 years) were recruited to provide serum and undergo assessment of cognitive function.  Serum concentrations of 25(OH)D, lipids, and oxysterols were determined, and cognitive performance was measured with mental, verbal, and auditory tests.  Dietary intakes were estimated using a FFQ, and 24-hour dietary recalls from 3 consecutive days.

The prevalence of mild cognitive impairment was 3 times higher in those with vitamin D deficiency.  Serum 25(OH)D concentrations were negatively correlated with cholesterol (total and LDL) and oxysterol (24S,25-epoxycholesterol) concentrations.  Performance on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment and the symbol digit modalities tests were positively correlated with serum 24(OH)D.  These observations led the authors to conclude that there was a correlation between serum 25(OH)D, lipids, and oxysterols and cognitive impairment.


Wen Liu, Cui Zhou, Yushan Wang, Huiyan Yu, Xiaona Zhang, Tao Wang, Lijing Wang, Ling Hao, Zhongsheng Qin, Rong Xiao, Vitamin D Deficiency Is Associated with Disrupted Cholesterol Homeostasis in Patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 151, Issue 12, December 2021, Pages 3865–3873, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxab296.

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