Mental function may decline faster in older adults with low levels of vitamin D, a new study suggests.

Among more than 380 people the researchers followed for an average of five years, those with dementia had the lowest levels of vitamin D.

“It is unclear what vitamin D might be doing,” said study author Joshua Miller, chair of the department of nutritional sciences at Rutgers University School of Environmental and Biological Sciences in New Brunswick, N.J.

“There is good evidence that vitamin D gets into all cells of the body, including the brain,” Miller said, so it’s possible that vitamin D protects the brain from developing the plaques and tangles that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

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