Background: Vitamin D deficiency is common in older adults and has been implicated in psychiatric and neurologic disorders. This study examined the relationship among vitamin D status, cognitive performance, mood, and physical performance in older adults.

Methods: A cross-sectional group of 80 participants, 40 with mild Alzheimer disease (AD) and 40 nondemented persons, were selected from a longitudinal study of memory and aging. Cognitive function was assessed using the Short Blessed Test (SBT), Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE), Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR; a higher Sum of Boxes score indicates greater dementia severity), and a factor score from a neuropsychometric battery; mood was assessed using clinician’s diagnosis and the depression symptoms inventory. The Physical Performance Test (PPT) was used to measure functional status. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were measured for all participants.

Results: The mean vitamin D level in the total sample was 18.58 ng/mL (standard deviation: 7.59); 58% of the participants had abnormally low vitamin D levels defined as less than 20 ng/mL.

After adjusting for age, race, gender, and season of vitamin D determination, vitamin D deficiency was associated with presence of an active mood disorder (odds ratio: 11.69, 95% confidence interval: 2.04–66.86; Wald 2 = 7.66, df = 2, p = 0.022).

Using the same covariates in a linear regression model, vitamin D deficiency was associated with worse performance on the SBT (F = 5.22, df = [2, 77], p = 0.044) and higher CDR Sum of Box scores (F = 3.20, df = [2, 77], p = 0.047) in the vitamin D-deficient group. There was no difference in performance on the MMSE, PPT, or factor scores between the vitamin D groups.

Conclusions: In a cross-section of older adults, vitamin D deficiency was associated with low mood and with impairment on two of four measures of cognitive performance.