Mid-life serum Vitamin D concentrations were associated with incident dementia but not late-life neuropsychological performance in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study

BMC Neurol. 2019 Oct 22;19(1):244. doi: 10.1186/s12883-019-1483-3.


Background: Activated Vitamin D has anti-inflammatory properties and adequate 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentrations may be important for neurocognitive function and protection against neurologic injury. We examined whether mid-life 25(OH) D concentrations were associated with later-life performance on neuropsychological testing, functional ability, depressive symptoms, and incident dementia.

Methods: We studied 13,039 white and black ARIC participants who had serum 25(OH) D measured mid-life at visit 2 (1990-1992). Over the next ~ 20 years through visit 5 (2011-2013), participants underwent 3 additional in-person visits, annual telephone calls, and hospitalization surveillance. An extensive battery of neuropsychological outcomes were assessed at visit 5 using standardized protocols. Incident dementia was ascertained through a formal algorithm that included data from in-person cognitive testing, telephone interviews, hospital discharge codes, and death certificate codes. Diagnoses of dementia were adjudicated by expert clinician committee. For the primary cognitive analyses, we imputed for missing covariates and outcomes and used linear regression to evaluate non-concurrent cross-sectional associations of mid-life 25(OH) D (visit 2) with late-life neuropsychological outcomes (visit 5). We also used Cox regression models to examine associations of mid-life 25(OH) D and incident dementia.

Results: In mid-life, the mean (SD) age of participants was 57 (6) years, 57% were women, and 24% black. Mean (SD) 25(OH) D was 24.3 (8.6) ng/mL; 33% had deficient (< 20 ng/mL), 44% intermediate (20- < 30 ng/mL), and 23% sufficient (≥30 ng/mL) 25(OH) D concentrations. Association between mid-life 25(OH) D and late-life performance on neuropsychological testing were mostly null. There was no significant association with functional ability or depressive symptoms. Results were similar in a sensitivity analysis using complete-case data (no imputation). However, after a median follow-up of 20 years, low 25(OH) D concentrations were associated with increased risk for incident dementia (p = 0.01 for trend across categories), with HR of 1.26 (95% CI 1.06, 1.49) for participants with deficient 25(OH) D, compared to sufficient concentrations.

Conclusion: In this community cohort, mid-life serum 25(OH) D concentrations were associated with incident dementia but not with performance on neuropsychological testing, functional ability, or depressive symptoms, 20 years later. Whether serum 25(OH) D concentrations are causally related to dementia or confounded by poorer health status remains uncertain.

Trial registration: Registered on clinicaltrials.gov NCT00005131 .

Keywords: Cerebrovascular disease; Cognitive function; Vascular risk factors; Vitamin D.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • African Americans
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dementia / epidemiology*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives*
  • Vitamin D / blood


  • Vitamin D
  • 25-hydroxyvitamin D

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00005131