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Vitamin D Deficiency & Mental Confusion

By Carrie Cross

Vitamin D's role in preventing several conditions such as rickets, osteomalacia and osteoarthritis is well accepted. It is evident that vitamin D plays significant roles in calcium balance, insulin secretion, immunity and the regulation of blood pressure, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. There is also a link of insufficient vitamin D to multiple sclerosis, diabetes and cancer. Recently, as of 2011, the scientific community is linking low levels of vitamin D with mental confusion.

Making Vitamin D

Exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun begins a chemical reaction in your skin that stimulates a cholesterol-like compound in the epidermis to produce previtamin D, notes Michael F. Holick in “Nutrition Reviews.” This previtamin D is taken to the liver through the bloodstream where it is changed into a chemical called 25-hydroxyvitamin D. However, before your body can utilize it, the kidneys must convert it to an active form called 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. If vitamin D is taken as a supplement or in food, a similar path is followed. Normal blood levels of vitamin D are 36 to 50 ng/ml.

Mental Confusion

Mental confusion is defined by the University of Maryland Medical Center as the inability to think clearly accompanied by the feeling of disorientation, a lack of clarity, difficulty making decisions and problems with memory. Inattention, disorganized thinking and altered levels of consciousness, such as lack of alertness or vigilance and lethargy, may be present. Confusion may appear suddenly, or take time to manifest. At times it may be temporary, and sometimes confusion may be permanent, with no cure. Its causes may include alcoholism, brain tumor, concussion, illness, low blood sugar levels, medications, and possibly low levels of vitamin D.

Vitamin D Link to Mental Confusion

Mental confusion, or cognitive functioning, may have a positive link to low levels of serum vitamin D, shows a study in the journal "Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics." In this study 32 elderly patients between the ages of 61 and 92, who presented with symptoms of mental confusion, were evaluated for nutritional status. Blood samples were taken to determine vitamin D levels, and it was found that out of a cohort of 32 patients, 25 had low serum vitamin D levels. This led to the conclusion that low serum vitamin D levels may be a factor in cognitive impairment.

Vitamin D, Aging and Mental Confusion

The elderly are a population high at risk for mental confusion possibly caused by a link to low serum vitamin D. A 2006 study published in "The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry" found a predominance of vitamin D deficiency for Americans over the age of 60 -- 25 to 54 percent -- in a study group of 80 seniors. The study added that this number may be larger, as most people are not routinely screened for vitamin D levels. The conclusion was that vitamin D deficiency may be related to mood and cognitive impairment.

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