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Vitamin D Supplementation and Cognition in Adults: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials

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Abstract

Background

The role of vitamin D supplementation in improving cognition and slowing the incidence of minor and major neurocognitive disorders is a matter of debate. To our knowledge, no systematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) has examined this question in adults.

Objectives

The purpose of this systematic review is to synthesize the evidence regarding the effects of vitamin D supplementation on cognitive performance and neurocognitive disorders in adults.

Methods

A systematic search of scientific articles in English or French was conducted. The MEDLINE (PubMed), EMBASE (Ovid, EMBASE), PsychINFO, and Cochrane Central databases were searched for records without any limit on publication date in May 2021. Inclusion criteria were (1) human participants, (2) RCT, (3) participant age ≥ 18, (4) vitamin D supplementation as the intervention, and (5) cognition (i.e., cognitive performance or cognitive status such as cognitively healthy or minor and major neurocognitive disorder) as the primary outcome. Two independent reviewers both assessed all eligible studies’ full texts and the risk of bias arising from methodological issues using a standardized procedure.

Results

Of the 2137 abstracts identified, 61 (2.9%) met screening inclusion criteria. After full text examination, 41 records (67.2%) were excluded. As a result, 20 RCTs (32.8%) were included in the systematic review. The review yielded mixed findings and, thus, failed to find evidence supporting cognitive benefits from vitamin D supplementation or suggesting a causal association between vitamin D and cognitive function. Half of the RCTs reported mixed results, one quarter negative results, and the last quarter positive effects for vitamin D supplementation on cognitive performance. The variability in serum 25-dihydroxyvitamin D concentration thresholds, the cognitive tests employed, the supplementation doses, and the samples’ characteristics (i.e., ethnicity or number of participants) may explain these mixed findings.

Conclusion

This systematic review of RCTs does not support a role for vitamin D supplementation in enhancing cognition in adults.

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Correspondence to Olivier Beauchet.

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The study was not financially supported.

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The authors declare that they have no potential conflicts of interest.

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Author contributions

Conceived of and designed the experiments: OB and GA. Analyzed and interpreted the data: OB, LACB, and GA. Contributed reagents, materials, analysis tools, or data: OB. Writing of the manuscript: OB. Revision of manuscript: GA and LACB. All authors approve the final version of the manuscript for submission and publication and agree to be accountable for the work presented in the article.

Data statement

Data will be made available on request sent by e-mail to Dr. Beauchet (olivier.beauchet@umontreal.ca).

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Beauchet, O., Cooper-Brown, L.A. & Allali, G. Vitamin D Supplementation and Cognition in Adults: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. CNS Drugs 35, 1249–1264 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40263-021-00876-z

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