Association between 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and cognitive performance in middle-aged and older European men

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Background: Although there is evidence that vitamin D inadequacy may be linked to adverse cognitive outcomes, results from studies on this topic have been inconsistent. The aim of this trial was to examine the association between 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH) D) levels and cognitive performance in middle-aged and older European men. Methods: This population-based cross-sectional study included 3,369 men aged 40-79 years from eight centres enrolled in the European Male Ageing Study. Cognitive function was assessed using the Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure (ROCF) test, the Camden Topographical Recognition Memory (CTRM) test and the Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST). Serum 25(OH) D levels were measured by radioimmunoassay. Additional assessments included measurement of physical activity, functional performance and mood/depression. Associations between cognitive function and 25(OH) D levels were explored using locally weighted and linear regression models. Results: In total, 3,133 men (mean (+/- SD) age 60 +/- 11 years) were included in the analysis. The mean (+/- SD) 25(OH) D concentration was 63 +/- 31 nmol/l. In age-adjusted linear regressions, high levels of 25(OH) D were associated with high scores on the copy component of the ROCF test (beta per 10 nmol/l = 0.096; 95% CI 0.049 to 0.144), the CTRM test (beta per 10 nmol/l= 0.075; 95% CI 0.026 to 0.124) and the DSST (beta per 10 nmol/l = 0.318; 95% CI 0.235 to 0.401). After adjusting for additional confounders, 25(OH) D levels were associated with only score on the DSST (beta per 10 nmol/l = 0.152; 95% CI 0.051 to 0.253). Locally weighted and spline regressions suggested the relationship between 25(OH) D concentration and cognitive function was most pronounced at 25(OH) D concentrations below 35 nmol/l. Conclusion: In this study, lower 25(OH) D levels were associated with poorer performance on the DSST. Further research is warranted to determine whether vitamin D sufficiency might have a role in preserving cognitive function in older adults.


  • David M. Lee
  • Abdelouahid Tajar
  • Aslan Ulubaev
  • Neil Pendleton
  • Terence W. O'Neill
  • Daryl B. O'Connor
  • Gyorgy Bartfai
  • Steven Boonen
  • Roger Bouillon
  • Felipe F. Casanueva
  • Joseph D. Finn
  • Gianni Forti
  • Thang S. Han
  • Ilpo T. Huhtaniemi
  • Krzysztof Kula
  • Michael E. J. Lean
  • Margus Punab
  • Alan J. Silman
  • Dirk Vanderschueren
  • Frederick C. W. Wu
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Neurology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)722-729
JournalJournal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Publication categoryResearch